The state of Israel celebrated its 66th year of independence this week and has made international cooperation one of its main goals. Major publications in Florida published Consul General Shacham's opinion piece on the recent successes between Florida & Israel.
Brick by brick, Israel and Florida
have built strong friendship
May 6, 2014|By Chaim Shacham
of Israel today celebrates its 66th year of independence. As a small nation
located in a tough neighborhood, Israel has made international cooperation one
of its main goals. So while it is no secret that Israel's closest ally is the
United States, not many people know that of all the 50 states, Israel's
relationship with the state of Florida is by far one of the strongest.
consul general of Israel to Florida, I have had the unique opportunity to
witness firsthand over the past few years the building of a new level of
cooperation, brick by brick. I would like to mention just of few of the bigger "bricks":
of all, in the economic realm, the state of Florida and the state of Israel
signed in August a memorandum of understanding agreement to promote
collaborative research, development and commercialization of projects related
to space. For Israel this means an expansion of its economic cooperation
abroad, and for Florida it means maintaining and strengthening its space sector
despite NASA's recent pull-out.
agreement, the governments of Israel and Florida are matching each other,
dollar for dollar, to establish a fund to
provide grants to Israeli and Florida companies that present joint research
ideas for innovative space technologies. The grant fund will be budgeted at $2
million a year, half from each side.
with countries that value and invest in next-generation space and aerospace technologydevelopment
and commercialization falls directly within Space Florida's mission of ensuring
a robust high-tech industry. Florida's and Israel's goals and resources in
these areas are complementary. We look forward to enhancing Florida's economy
through this partnership.
memorandum of understanding is a great example of how the strong ties between
the people of Florida and Israel have the power to create vital economic
benefits for both states — specifically, economic growth and jobs.
There is an enormous number of untapped opportunities to develop between
Florida and Israel, and this new agreement will be a win-win for both.
past year, Florida's investments in
Israel's "miracle" economy were strengthened and expanded. Today, the
state of Florida, through the State Board of Administration, is investing
approximately $250 million in Israeli government bonds and private equities,
making Florida one of the biggest investors in Israel among the 50 states. That
portion of Florida's public funds that is invested in Israel is now better
protected and growing faster because of Israel's recently upgraded credit
rating — itself a bright rarity in today's sluggish global economy.
business sector as well is benefiting from today's burgeoning Florida-Israel
partnership. A few months ago, Enterprise Florida, the state's
economic-development agency, opened an office in
Tel Aviv to help facilitate economic and business cooperation between the two
states — making Florida one of the few states with such an office in Israel.
This was a critical factor in the recent decision by several Israeli companies
to expand and relocate to Florida. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the
largest-ever acquisition by an Israeli company abroad was TEVA Pharmaceutical's
purchase of Florida's IMAX Corp. in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
security realm as well, the Florida-Israel relationship is unique in its
breadth and depth. The passage of several recent legislative and Cabinet acts
distancing Iran and its business partners from Florida's economy — such as the
Scrutinized Companies Act (SB 444/2011), the Financial Institutions Act (SB
792/2012), the "Iran-Free Bonds"
SBA Policy Change (approved by the Cabinet in 2013) and the most recent Foreign
Investments Act (SB 948/2014) — have been and remain crucial to the protection
of Florida investments and U.S. national interests, as well as the
strengthening of the national security of the state of Israel.
as vital to Florida's security is the recently strengthened implementation of
the revolutionary Protecting Florida's Investments Act of 2007, requiring the
SBA to identify, scrutinize and divest from all companies doing business with
Iran in which public monies are invested.
states have taken notice, and followed Florida's groundbreaking example.
Indeed, Florida's pioneering Iran divestment enforcement laws have become the
basis of similar, and sometimes identical, legislation passed by approximately
three dozen other states throughout the union.
as Israel marks its 66th year, it is proud to be able to count among its
closest friends the citizens of the state of Florida, who have made this
unprecedented cooperation possible. Thank you for your friendship.
Shacham is consul general of the state of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.