Israeli-American green energy pioneer Yosef Abramowitz, nicknamed “Captain Sunshine,” officially threw his hat into the presidential ring Thursday with an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post and a Hebrew-language campaign.
Abramowitz, 50, is CEO of Energiya Global Capital, a Jerusalem-based solar developer, and was called a leading global green pioneer by CNN. He also played a major role in the struggle to free Soviet Jewry and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times for his work in the United Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.
He was born in the US and grew up mostly in Boston, making aliya with his wife and five children, two of whom are adopted Ethiopians, in 2006.
His wife is Rabbi Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi and Women of the Wall activist and sister of comedienne Sarah Silverman.
Abramowitz pointed to his status as a political outsider as advantageous, saying there is demand from the Israeli public for such a candidate.
The public does not vote for president; he is elected by MKs in a secret ballot.
Peres’s term ends in July. A date for the presidential election has not been set yet, but it is likely to take place in June.
Abramowitz enters a tight race, including MKs Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu), Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua), former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman, retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner and Dr. Yehuda David, plus several others who are considering joining the race.
The new candidate said he launched the campaign following “positive meetings” with MKs, 10 of whom will have to sign a petition for him to run, and he plans to focus on pluralism and business innovation if he is elected president.
“President Shimon Peres has done great things,” Abramowitz said. “To continue this momentum, Israel must field a president who embodies innovation and the ‘Start-Up Nation,’ a president who will foster hope and a bright future for the younger generations who are desperately seeking social and economic stability.”
Abramowitz is the co-founder of Arava Power Company, responsible for the country’s first medium-sized solar field, the 4.95-megawatt Ketura Sun, launched in June 2011. In April, the company connected an additional six projects to the grid in the Negev and Arava deserts. By the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015, Arava Power’s future 40-megawatt solar field – likely to be the country’s first large solar field – is slated to be grid connected, and will supply up to one-third of Eilat’s daytime energy.
Abramowitz also works to bring solar power to developing countries through the international firms Gigawatt Global Coöperatief and Energiya Global, where he serves as president and CEO, respectively. Gigawatt Global achieved financial close on a $23.7 million Rwandan solar field in February, and construction on the 8.5-megawatt field is already underway at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The field, which will be the first commercial-scale solar field in East Africa, will likely be completed this summer.
“Israel has the potential to be a superpower of goodness in the world, since we excel at water technologies, agriculture and green energy,” he said, pointing out that over two billion people do not have safe drinking water, food security or affordable electricity.
“A quarter of the votes in the United Nations, for example, are island nations that burn dirty and expensive diesel for their power needs, when Israeli know-how could transform their energy into cheaper and cleaner renewables – and UN votes,” Abramowitz stated.
According to Abramowitz, the next president should encourage Israeli “industries of goodness” as a way to win over hearts and minds around the world and fight BDS. He added that he has a track record of bringing foreign investments into Israel.
“As president, I would embrace the tikkun olam [repairing the world] imperative by ‘exporting’ Israeli innovation to bring about economic improvement coupled with humanistic action that will strengthen the country both from within and in the international community,” he stated.
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.