WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley with some of the world’s most successful tech leaders, rounding out his ambitious three-day trip to California with a familiar pitch for the Start-up nation.
Just hours after signing a strategic cooperative agreement with California Gov. Jerry Brown, Netanyahu made a case to the CEOs of Apple, Whatsapp and eBay for synthesis with their Israeli counterparts on technology and the applied sciences.
“We’re developing cyber security as a main effort,” he said to Whatsapp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton. The free messaging mobile application was recently purchased by Facebook for a historic $19 billion.
“We think we can be a big force in protecting the billions of messages you have every day,” Netanyahu said. “They need protection. Countries need protection. User files need protection. Bank accounts need protection.”
The prime minister extended an invitation to Apple CEO Tim Cook to visit Israel, and suggested he consider expanding the company’s already extensive operations in Israel to the state’s national cyber park in Beersheba.
“Right now, outside the US, Israel is No. 2” in leading the tech industry, Cook told Netanyahu over lunch at Apple headquarters.
The partnership agreement between Israel and California, signed Wednesday at a ceremony in Mountain View, encourages joint research and development in the fields of cyber security, climate change, alternative energy and water conservation – all key strategic issues for both states.
Netanyahu’s focus on tech was a pivot from his day in southern California on Tuesday, where he mingled with members of the Hollywood community.
After attending his own film premiere for Israel: Royal Tour, in which he guides journalist Peter Greenberg around the country, Netanyahu visited the home of Israeli movie producer Arnon Milchan. Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand, Kate Hudson and Keanu Reeves attended the event and mingled with the prime minister, his wife, Sara, and his older son, Yair.