By: Heidi PP-iF Magazine
I am honored to be in the offices of the Consul General of Israel. Hon. Livia Link- Raviv is a recent addition to the Consular Corps of Houston, and she has some very good plans to expand and strengthen our relationship with Israel which has been good for decades. It is always a pleasure to work with Israel. I would like to thank you and your lovely staff for making the time for this interview.
How did you prepare yourself for Diplomatic Service? What other positions have you held in the diplomatic service?
I have been a career diplomat in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the past twenty years. Every diplomat begins his career by entering the Cadet Course. To put it simply, this is the “University” for diplomats offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have been very privileged not only to have been accepted to the Cadet Course; but to have also directed a Cadet Course myself, leading the training and preparation of the next generation of diplomats. I served in Caracas, Venezuela, as Deputy Ambassador; and in Rome, Italy, as Counsellor for Public Diplomacy. In headquarters, I worked on International Organizational issues, coordinating policy vis- à-vis the United Nations; and being a lawyer. I have also been a part of the Legal Adviser Division. Before joining the diplomatic service, I worked as a mediator, which has certainly been useful in my role as a diplomat. Being a mediator provided me with a great deal of experience in conflict resolution and facilitating dialogue.
What products does Israel export to Texas? Is trade a significant part of Israel’s economy? What are the principal raw products found in Israel?
I am proud to say that Israel and Texas are significant trade partners, as the annual bilateral trade between Israel and Texas is 2 billion dollars.This is a great number and a good starting place, however; there is a great deal of potential here, and we will continue to strive to increase this trade partnership even more. Israeli companies and businesses operate in over 60 locations throughout the State of Texas. Prominent sectors of trade between Israel and Texas include IT, cybersecurity, defense technologies, water, energy infrastructure and technologies, and agriculture. Top commodities traded include industrial machinery, aircraft parts, plastics and more. It is worth mentioning that the added value that Israel can offer is high technologies that cuts across all sectors. We are world leaders in areas such as digital health care, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, all of which rely on human capital. But when it comes to raw materials, Israel is abundant in both potash and copper. Of course, we have been very fortunate to discover natural gas in the past decade, which makes
Texas, home to some of the world’s greatest energy companies, a natural trade partner.
Does Israel import products from Texas? What are the main products that Israel needs to import?
Israel imports a wide array of goods from the United States, and in particular Texas. Imports from Texas to Israel exceeded one billion dollars in 2019 alone. The Major sectors we import from the State of Texas are: industrial machinery, plastics,electric machinery, aircraft, spacecraft, as well as parts and technical instruments.
I know that Christians and Jews want to visit Israel as the center of their faith. Is religion very important in Israeli politics?
Religion plays an important role in Israeli society, and naturally, it can be seen in the political sector as well. Some might not realize that Israel is not only the Jewish homeland, but it is also the home of Christians, Muslims, Baháʼí, and additional religious communities as well. This religious diversity can be seen in our parliament, as we have a wide array of political parties. There are currently 13 represented since our last election, and many of these parties identify with different religions. Our current governing coalition includes parties from across the religious spectrum, and of course, secular parties as well. In Israel, we see religious diversity as a strength of our society and our political system.
What are your goals to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Texas?
Every diplomat is kind of like a matchmaker. One of my goals as Consul General is to find the compatible sectors that exist in both Israel and Texas, in order to create the right connections that would benefit both and therefore deepen the relationship. This applies to the economic and commercial sector, the political sector, academic research and development, culture, and more. One of the most efficient tools to strengthen this relationship is through mutual visits, as this is the best way to get to know each other. This is why we promote mutual delegations focusing on specific sectors such as interfaith dialogue, academic cooperation, as well as official visits by important leaders, just to name a few. The fact that we will soon have a direct flight from Dallas to Israel is another great tool to facilitate bringing Israel and Texas closer together. This relationship is also continuing to advance as Israeli businessmen are increasingly discovering the benefits of Texas, more and more. As you know, Austin is becoming home to many Israeli startups, which is very exciting. Another one of my goals is to continue to nurture and support this aspect of Israel’s relationship with Texas.
If we organize a trade mission to Israel next year,what are the best sectors to explore for possible cooperation between an investor from Texas and an Israeli company?
Israel is an exciting example of innovation, with a very unique ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and thinking outside of the box. That is why it could be a great investment option. The sectors that I mentioned in question #2 would be the exact sectors I would recommend exploring. These include agriculture technologies, water technologies, cybersecurity, defense, IT, energy, and digital health, to name some examples. With groundbreaking technologies and over 6,000 active startups, making Israel the world leader for startups per capita, investment opportunities in Israel are certainly limitless.
How has the Pandemic impacted Israel? Are there any travel restrictions at this time?
Much like the community of nations, the pandemic has certainly posed many challenges for us. However, efforts were made to face those challenges head on, which led Israel to succeed in becoming one of the quickest nations to achieve high levels of vaccinations, including booster shots. We have developed Covid-19 solution innovation and have created new devices and treatments to help combat the virus. We have utilized our strength in high tech to create apps that could help warn Israelis if they might have come into contact with Covid, so that they could isolate quickly and stop the spread. In terms of travel restrictions, not long ago, we felt that we had Covid under control and borders were open to those qualifying as fully vaccinated. Shortly after, the Omicron variant surprised us all and changed everything. So, please be sure to stay updated prior to traveling to Israel to be informed on the most current travel regulations and restrictions.
Are there any restrictions on foreign business and/or ownership in Israel?
Israel is built on an open and free economy, which has helped our companies and startups flourish. Accordingly, there are generally no limitations on foreign businesses or ownership and investment in Israel. But of course, every sector has its regulations and I would advise to check these regulations prior to investing in a specific business.
Thank you. This conversation has been very interesting and it will be invaluable for future plans for our trade and education missions. I am certain that we will be working together for a long and mutually beneficial relationship. Have a good Holiday and a safe trip to Israel.
Heidi PP, Editor in Chief, Global Journalist, email@example.com
Hon. Livia Link-Raviv, Consul General Israel, (832) 301-3500