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Meridor: Israel’s Struggle for Survival Moving from the Military to the Economic Sphere

April 12, 1984
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Israel’s struggle for survival is moving from the military to the economic sphere and high technology exports is the key to its success, Israel’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Yaacov Meridor, stressed here today.

“The main asset of Israel is the Israeli brain, the Israeli talent, the Israeli ability,” Meridor said at a press conference at the Israel Embassy. He noted that Israel demonstrated its technological skills when it knocked out Syria’s Soviet-built missiles and planes in Lebanon. The same ability is also there for civilian products, he said.

Meridor is here to promote the Israel Economic Conference, to be held May 20-25 at which representatives of more than 300 companies from all over the world will be given a chance to see how their companies can use the research and development facilities and skills available in Israel’s in Israel. He called the conference a “springboard” to Israel’s economic success.

Forty to 45 percent of the companies that will participate are from the United States, including 50 companies with annual sales of more than $1 billion, Meridor said. The others are from Canada, Latin America, Western Europe, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The majority of the participants will be non-Jewish companies, he said.


“It will be the most important economic event in the history of Israel,” the Minister stressed. He said the companies will be encouraged to open their own plants in Israel, as have such firms as Motorola and Intel, or to work out arrangements to use the research and development facilities in Israel, as 150 American companies now do.

The conference, which is Meridor’s brain-child, was postponed from May, 1983, so that it could be held in the same week as the “Isratech ’84’ exhibition, Israel’s sixth Technology Week, at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.

Meridor stressed today that Israel has both the facilities and the scientific manpower to increase its potential in the high technology field. As one example, he noted that Japan, which does well exporting high technology hardware, is weak in developing software, an area where Israel is strong.

Some Israeli scientific firms have also opened branches in the U.S., so it is a “two-way street,” Meridor said. He added that while Israel wants to export its technology, it does not want to export its brains. Israel’s high technology exports in 1983 totalled $1.4 billion out of total exports of $5 billion. Excluding diamonds, this was 40 percent of the industrial exports, Meridor said. He said that if Israel invested $250-$300 million a year in research and development, within eight years it could increase its high technology exports to $8-10 billion a year.


Israel would then be “able to say to the United States of America, ‘thank you for your help. We are now (economically) independent,'” Meridor declared. “This is our goal, this is our wish, this is the war we are fighting now,” he said.

Meridor said Israel’s economic problems are solvable. He said the Israeli budget is 40 percent debt service. The rest is civilian and military allocations and the government, this year, has cutnearly $2 billion from this. “We have had to do something which was unpopular,” he said. He explained that it was done to let the Israeli people know that reducing the debt is the “number one prerequisite” of the government.

He said Israel now owes about $21 billion of which $10 billion is long term debt to the U.S. for military and economic aid and $4 billion is a debt owed to Jewish people and others who bought Israel Bonds.

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