President Shimon Peres and Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers announced the expansion of Ma’antech, an initiative which promotes Arab recruitment to Israel’s leading hi-tech companies, at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem Wednesday.

Launched in February last year by Peres and Chambers, Ma’antech is operated by a coalition including recruiter Manpower and NGO Kav Mashve. Until now, 22 Israeli and Israeli-based hi-tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Amdocs, Sandisk and Nice Systems, have employed Arabs through the program.

On Wednesday, several more names were added to that list, including communications firms Bezeq, Teldor and OnTarget.

Peres declared hi-tech the impetus for “the greatest revolution” in human history, explaining that it has bridged gaps between communities in ways that no politician could ever have done. Giving the example of Israel’s own Arab city of Nazareth and Jewish city of Upper Nazareth, he said initiatives such as Chambers’ had turned the two Nazareths into one.

The president heaped praise upon Chambers and other prominent business leaders in the audience, including Publicis Groupe Chairman and CEO Maurice Levy, France Telecom Group Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard and US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, for their contributions to society.

“Technology is the means, the goal is the human being,” he said, adding that the business leaders had created change both within their own companies and in the world.

These leaders want their own workers to take the initiative and express themselves, he said, “because today democracy is not just about free expression but also about self-expression.”

Chambers said Israeli-Arabs were being absorbed into the hi-tech industry at a rate of 1,000 new employees per year, adding that increasing this to 12,000 in the next four years was an achievable goal.

Like most positive initiatives, he said, “this will also be good for the economy and for Israel… Just think what 12,000 extra people would do to GDP growth in this country.”

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