U.S. Bankers See Israel As ‘switzerland of the Middle East’

An Israel Bond Organization bankers delegation, whose banks and bank holding companies list assets of nearly $30 billion and have already invested significantly in Israel Bonds, predicted a role for Israel as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” provided a lasting peace is achieved.

This was the view of Frederick Deane Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of the Bank of Virginia in Richmond, speaking at the closing dinner of the delegation which visited Israel for a week under the auspices of Israel Bonds.

The dinner, addressed by Israel Manufacturers Association president Avraham Shavit, provided an opportunity for the 20 bankers to assess their impressions of Israel “as bankers who are interested in lending money and getting it back.” Deane summed up his views: “I think that the achievement in industry has been fantastic particularly when you consider that it’s been going on while you had war at the same time.”

A theme heard more than once was the “bad press” Israel gets in the United States. William Brenton, chairman of Brenton Banks of Des Molnes, Iowa, said, “This is a very dynamic country. Instead of Bank Leumi buying U.S. banks, they ought to buy U.S. newspapers. The message of this country has not been brought to us.”

A similar note was struck by Harvey Kershaw Jr., chairman of the Provident Savings Bank of Baltimore. “Many misconceptions have been reversed. These people are among the most hard working groups in the world. Israel and her people deserve the greatest amount of encouragement. The West is less informed than it should be,” he said.

If a Middle East development fund can amass $30-$50 billion in the next decade to boost economic development within both Egypt and Israel, the peace process will really succeed, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Arnon Gafni, told the Americans.

Unless this economic underpinning of peace is provided, he saw disillusion with the peace setting in within one-and-a-half to two years. Gafni called on the U.S., West Germany, Japan and the European Economic Community (EEC), as well as world money markets to join forces in providing support.

Israel had amply demonstrated the successes that flow from imported capital, Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, told the group. By investing loans provided from the sales of Israel Bonds, capital notes and other government securities in the country’s infrastructure, Israel had reached the stage where she exported one-third of all Middle East non-oil exports.

NEXT STORY