Florida-Israel Relationship Coverage in the News

Florida-Israel Relationship Coverage in the News

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    ​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

    The state 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.

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    As 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":

    First 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.

    Under this agreement, the governments of Israel and Florida are matching each other, dollar for dollar, to establish a fundhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png 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.

    Partnering with countries that value and invest in next-generation space and aerospace technologyhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.pngdevelopment 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.

    This 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 jobshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png. 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.

    Also this past year, Florida's investmentshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png 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.

    The 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 officehttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png 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.

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    In the 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 Bondshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png" 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.

    Just 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.

    Other 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.

    Today, 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.

    Chaim Shacham is consul general of the state of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.

     

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