Buy in Low, Aim High: Israeli Politics and Technology

Having just celebrated Israel’s 60th birthday, one can not help but be in awe of Israel’s achievements. However, the headlines in the newspapers seem to show two diverging societies: a high tech international leader with a promising future and economy; and a levantine nation-state permeated with corrupt politicians struggling for personal power and selfish gain.

Those who preceded me in living In Israel established the first Jewish State in two thousand years. They were dreamers who thought of the common good despite their personal suffering. They saw great hardships of food shortages and rationing; of difficult immigrations, sometimes illegally crossing borders, risking their lives for the chance to reach our shores; of war with its unimaginable horrors and great losses of life. They secured Israel in its borders and among the world of nations.

We can be proud of the society we are building in many respects. The leaders of this generation have come of age not knowing hunger and have been successful in our youth.

Israel’s achievements are perhaps strongest in our entrepreneurial successes. Israel has the highest number of companies listed on NASDAQ outside of America and is considered a second Silicon Valley. This is shocking for a country the size of New Jersey whose population, at about 7.3 million, is even less than the Garden State.

The number of start-ups in Israel continues to grow. It is an exciting environment for entrepreneurs, investors and developers. What is more, those who are in Israel today are here out of a choice. It is no secret that many Israelis leave their homeland and many are successful abroad. The Israelis who achieve success here chose to remain here, many with education or work experience abroad.

Those Israelis who remain in Israel are joined by giants in technology, among them IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Motorola who invest in large research and development centers to take advantage of Israeli talent. Some of the Israelis who have been successful in this sector are now turning to politics with a very different approach from traditional Israeli politicians, working for the public good based on the experience and lessons they gained in the business world. Their choice to move beyond their personal successes in an effort to better Israel is not so surprising to me.

Entrepreneurs, like Israel’s founders, are dreamers and some of these dreamers who had a vision and turned it into reality in the corporate world are now looking to make a better society, stressing education and welfare, city planning and service, as well as other areas which have long been neglected. As people with vision they see it as an investment in our future unlike many Israeli politicians who are too overburdened with immediate concerns to show true leadership and vision securing the public well-being.

Everywhere we look in Israel, we are surrounded by success. It follows that the successes Israel has seen in high-tech will be the model for other successes in the society. The people who work in this sector are the same people who are the parents of students in the schools which were on strike earlier this year; they are the same voters who sought change at the polls in the last national election. With the highest ratio of scientists and engineers in the world, we ought to be able to apply our successes not just to our personal professions, but to the communal well-being of our nation as well.

With global communications and electronic economies, high tech leaders operate in international circles, traveling across different continents with contacts and experiences traversing cultures. Mine is a generation that does not think of turf wars or competing efforts as a desirable place to be. Our perspective is different. We think in terms of coopetion, cooperating with competitors for mutual benefit on a global level. This seems to be an unknown entity in Israeli politics and it is the Israeli public that has been suffering for too long.

Just as there is room to work together at business conferences, the Knesset should be a plenum for cooperation towards the benefit of all. I find that in attending conferences among entrepreneurs and Internet professionals, there is a sense of modest ignorance, despite the strong egos and dominant personalities of business. We are well aware that we are at the forefront of technology with new business models and that none of us has all the answers. In conferences, workshops and seminars, we share our knowledge and, even when we disagree or have different approaches, we value the input of our peers and their experiences. We realize that it is better to work together and achieve a win-win outcome, rather than wasting time and resources in competition against each other.

Israeli politics may be at a low right now, but that is just the right time for a person of vision to buy in, to invest and benefit from the future growth.

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