Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a weeklong Louisiana economic development mission in Israel. Following a photo session, the two discussed Louisiana’s strong relationship with Israel, as well as trade and economic development issues of mutual importance to Israel, the United States and Louisiana.
“This long-awaited meeting is the result of many years of friendship and partnership. On behalf of the people of Louisiana, I was proud to share with Prime Minister Netanyahu that Louisiana stands with Israel, and we will always remain faithful to our staunch ally in the Middle East,” Gov. Edwards said. “Over the years and during this mission, I have come to appreciate how alike our two lands are – similar in industrial strength and similar in economic priorities. But beyond that, Israel and Louisiana are inhabited by warm and welcoming people with a strong desire to succeed and innovate, to leave the legacy of a better way of life to their children and grandchildren. I’m sure this is a source of tremendous pride for Prime Minister Netanyahu, as it is for me. Our delegation has enjoyed learning everything we can about this great nation, and I hope the unique Louisiana culture of innovation that we are sharing in Israel has been equally enjoyed by our hosts.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has an extensive history of service in the Israeli government and the private sector. He first served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and then again from 2009 to the present. He has also held the positions of Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations. His private sector works includes service with the Boston Consulting Group, and he holds degrees in architecture and business management from MIT. Netanyahu and Edwards are both Army veterans of their nation’s military: Netanyahu served in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. A 1988 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Gov. Edwards commanded a rifle company in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before completing his military service, graduating from the LSU Law Center and setting up a civil law practice.
Of key interest to Israel and Louisiana on the trip are exploring ways to expand trade and foreign direct investment activity between the two partners. While substantial, trade between Louisiana and Israel is small in scope compared to overall trade volume with other nations. For instance, Louisiana ranks as the No. 9 exporter to Israel among U.S. states, with approximately $200 million in exports; that’s a small portion of the over $57 billion in total Louisiana exports. Israel’s more than $60 billion in annual exports includes nearly $22 billion in shipments to the U.S., though Louisiana’s share of Israeli imports is less than $150 million, with fertilizers, mineral and metals among the leading categories.
Talks between Gov. Edwards and Prime Minister Netanyahu are expected to open new avenues of trade and investment growth in commodities where Louisiana is a leader, such as oil and gas; along with applied research areas in which both Israel and Louisiana are emerging, such as water management; and defense and technology-related fields where Israel is an innovation leader and Louisiana is an emerging force, such as cybersecurity.
Gov. Edwards also is meeting with key Israeli cabinet officials on the trip, including Deputy Minister Michael Oren in the prime minister’s office; Minster of Energy Yuval Steinitz; and Advisor to the Minister of Energy on International Developments and Foreign Affairs Benjamin Weil.
With Israel playing a central role in global cybersecurity, the delegation met with cybersecurity companies in Israel on Wednesday, with additional exchanges occurring on Monday at the nation’s CyberSpark Industry Initiative in Beersheba and a visit to Twistlock’s Tel Aviv operations planned on Thursday. In April 2018, Twistlock announced the opening of a global solutions engineering center at the LSU Innovation Park in Baton Rouge.
In Israel, cybersecurity exports generate an estimated $6.5 billion in economic activity annually, with Israel attracting $815 million or 16 percent of all global investment in cybersecurity ventures during 2017, second only to the U.S., according to the Israeli innovation partnership Start-Up Nation Central. Cybersecurity is a key economic priority for Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he and Gov. Edwards discussed ways Israel’s global leadership in the field can grow through exchanges with major Louisiana assets, such as the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, Louisiana; Louisiana Tech University’s research leadership on the I-20 Cyber Corridor; and LSU’s Stephenson National Center for Security Research and the Transformational Technologies & Cyber Research Center, also at LSU.
In cybersecurity, energy, water management and other industry sectors, the Louisiana trade mission is exploring avenues for Louisiana companies to identify and secure new business development opportunities. Meetings conducted by Gov. Edwards and the Louisiana delegation with Israeli government and industry leaders will lay the groundwork for strategic expansion of Louisiana markets in Israel.