Business Scene

Shai Agassi makes the case for his electric car venture, Project Better Place, to British businessmen accompanying Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

electric car 88 248 (photo credit: )
electric car 88 248
(photo credit: )
"I THINK you have to go. Ehud, I said you have to go." The speaker was Sir Trevor Chinn, and no, he was not echoing those members of Knesset who have called for the resignation of the prime minister. He was simply reminding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he had a tight timetable, and that although he might want to chit-chat with some of his longtime friends and acquaintances attending the evening session on the first day of the UK-Israel Business Conference at Jerusalem's King David hotel, he did have other items on his immediate agenda. ONE OF the reasons that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown got along so well with President Shimon Peres and with Olmert is that all three have been both finance ministers and prime ministers and therefore have common denominators in addition to any mutual chemistry. While Brown expressed the usual platitudes with regard to Peres, he referred to Olmert in glowing terms, characterizing him as "a man of great courage and fortitude" who as mayor of Jerusalem had built a great city, as minister of finance had built a great economy and as prime minister had showed great courage in his pursuit of the peace process. "I am pleased and privileged to count him as one of my great friends," said Brown. Brown mentioned how his father used to visit Israel twice a year for some three decades, and had taken dozens of photographs on each visit, which he showed to family and friends on an old slide projector. In addition to that, friends in Israel used to send the Browns a crate of Jaffa oranges each year. But Israel has progressed from oranges to the highest end of technology, observed Brown, who also referred to Israel's achievements in other spheres in the face of war, threats, violence and intimidation. BECAUSE BROWN is known to be a good friend of Israel, his pro-Palestinian remarks and criticisms that he voiced with regard to settlement expansion in the West Bank did not elicit an angry response. Nor apparently did it bother too many people that the booklet printed for the business delegation was headlined "The Prime Minister's visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories." AT FIRST glance, it looked as if Brown had been accompanied by the Knights of the Round Table. Listed among the participants were: Sir Trevor Chinn, Sir Michael Bishop, Sir Victor Blank, Sir Ronald Cohen, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Robert Naylor, Sir Gulam Noon and Sir Stephen Wright, plus three lords of the realm: Lord Digby Jones, who headed the business delegation, Lord Karan Bilimoria and Lord Andrew Stone. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Gulum, a Muslim who is chairman of the Noon Group, which deals primarily in food products, and who earlier in the day accompanied Brown to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and with Palestinian businessmen, commented: "The Palestinians whom we met were well educated. They're going through a tough time. A tough time does not last long, but people do. They have the power of resilience and the tenacity to succeed. We can only hope that the peace process comes to a fruitful end so that both sides can live in peace." Gulum made the point that there are decent people on both sides who would like nothing better than to live in peace, security and cooperation, and that to achieve this courage is needed on the part of the leadership. "Gordon Brown is very keen and very hopeful that it will happen, and he's working very hard." WHILE A large part of Brown's visit and that of the business conference was taken up with what Britain and Israel can do to improve the Palestinian economy and quality of life, the essential purpose of the conference, namely the enhancing of bilateral business and trade relations was not forgotten. Among the Israeli presentations were two impressive examples of Israeli ingenuity and innovation. Former Teva CEO Israel Makov, who is now chairman of Given Imaging, gave much credit to his former place of employment, but spoke at greater length about what Given Imaging is doing to find ways of diagnosing and curing various illnesses - especially gastrointestinal diagnosis. He presented as his piece de resistance a camera in a capsule that can take thousands of pictures for diagnostic purposes. Makov offered anyone present the opportunity to swallow the capsule, but there were no takers. Shai Agassi of Project Better Place, which promotes battery powered cars, said that nobody likes to buy oil at $140 a barrel. He was also proud of the fact that Israel was the first country to declare an intention to become totally oil independent, and said that Israel was going to have the first virtual oil field in the world, which at the cost of a year's worth of oil, would provide 50 years of use "without a single drop of oil." Although he and his partner Idan Ofer have already raised $200 million towards their project, they were happy to welcome British investors to invest in what he called a "mobile operator," which he explained was a reference not to cellular phones but to "something you drive in." EIGHT EXPORTERS were the recipients of the Outstanding Exporters Award at a ceremony conducted last week at Beit Hanassi in the presence of President Shimon Peres. Yerushalmi Bros. Diamonds received the award for the third time. Intel was the recipient of The Chosen Investment Prize and Teva was named the Exporter of the Decade. The awards were presented by President Peres, Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai, President of the Israel Manufacturers Association Shraga Brosh and President of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association Moti Ganz. ORAMED PHARMACEUTICALS Inc., a developer of oral delivery systems, announced that Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Avram Hershko has joined Oramed's Scientific Advisory Board, enhancing the Company's scientific team. Hershko's main research interests concern mechanisms by which cellular proteins are degraded, a formerly neglected field of study. Through their research, Hershko and his colleagues proved that cellular proteins are degraded by a highly selective proteolytic system. Hershko was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004 jointly with his former PhD student Aaron Ciechanover and their colleague Irwin Rose, for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. INFLIGHT CATERING, a member of the ISS Group which supplies inflight meals to 22 airlines flying out of Israel, has won the IATA Gold Medal for being the best out of 280 international inflight catering services participating in the contest. According to Inflight Catering CEO Gabi Glazer, the company provides between 8,000 to 11,000 meals daily, in accordance with 360 menus that are part of the service of 22 airlines, among them British Airways, Continental Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Iberia, and others.