Arizona-Israel relations closer thanks to mutual focus on innovation

Phoenix installing Israeli-designed ‘smart’ traffic * Arizona-grown wheat is highly rated for matza among the ultra-Orthodox.

Arizona State Highway welcome sign (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/WING-CHI POON)
Arizona State Highway welcome sign
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/WING-CHI POON)
Arizona intends to take a page from Israel’s success as the Start-Up Nation to become an innovation center of its own. Which is why, under Gov. Doug Ducey, and the Arizona Commerce Authority, it has opened a state trade and Investment Office in the Jewish state, making Israel only the second country after Mexico to enjoy such a distinction.
When Ducey entered office in 2015, the state had a $1.5 billion deficit. That is no longer the case.
“He was able to turn it around,” David Yaari, director of the Arizona-Israel Trade and Investment Office, told The Jerusalem Post. Ducey “is a focused leader and successful businessman who is bringing his results-driven approach and driving innovation up” across the state, Yaari said.
Arizona is famous for having had an impressive defense, aviation and semiconductors industry since the 1950s, Arizona Chamber of Commerce (ACC) president Glenn Hamer told the Post.
This is because of several factors: the state rarely has earthquakes, there are few tall buildings, and year-round sunny weather makes it ideal to explore aviation innovation.
David Yaari (L), Director General of Arizona Israel Trade and Investment Office and Governor Doug Ducey (R), Governor of the State of Arizona (Credit: Tomer Maliki)David Yaari (L), Director General of Arizona Israel Trade and Investment Office and Governor Doug Ducey (R), Governor of the State of Arizona (Credit: Tomer Maliki)
If one considers Nevada, another famous American desert state, it is clear that Arizona took a different direction. If Las Vegas became known for gambling, fancy hotels and neon lights, Arizona opted for something else.
Yuma, in the state’s southwest corner, is famous for its dry climate. The ultra-Orthodox Satmar community therefore favors it as an excellent source of wheat for Passover matzah, because the lack of moisture nixes even the tiniest possibility of the wheat grains sprouting, The New York Times reported. Yet Arizona offers so much more.
With living costs in the San Francisco Bay Area continuing to rise, hi-tech workers seek more affordable locations to live and work from. And Phoenix has a lot to offer in that regard.
The capital’s Sky Harbor Airport offers 100 destinations within the US and 23 international ones, including Mexico City. Mexico and Arizona enjoy excellent relations, its southern neighbor being one of the most important greenhouse food producers in the world – and the only other country besides Israel to have an Arizona Chamber of Commerce operating there. Israeli ag-tech companies could enjoy easy access to both by setting up office in Phoenix.

No Traffic is a smart AI traffic platform meant to ensure maximum efficiency on the roads (Courtesy)No Traffic is a smart AI traffic platform meant to ensure maximum efficiency on the roads (Courtesy)
PHOENIX INSTALLED NoTraffic on Monday, an Israeli-developed AI platform that uses “smart” traffic lights to decrease vehicle delay time by up to 40%, according to the company’s press release.
Done in cooperation with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Maricopa Association of Governments and the University of Arizona, this is one of the first steps in introducing smart mobility systems to the region. It’s a policy that Yaari credits the governor with pushing forward.
When Google decided to build a billion-dollar data center in Mesa, east of Phoenix, Ducey was there to welcome the Google team, Yaari told the Post. Taiwan Semiconductor announced that it intends to invest $12b. to build an advanced chip factory in Phoenix. When it opens in four years’ time, the factory will offer 1,600 hi-tech jobs to local residents, CNN reported.
“When he [Ducey] says Arizona is open for opportunities, he doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for them,” Yaari told the Post, “it means we go out and get them.”
A strong supporter of Israel, Ducey visited the country twice, Hamer told the Post.
The ACC president himself has powerful ties to Israel, having worked under former Arizona senator Jon Kyl, who championed the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, and being married to an Israeli. Just as Ducey is not a native Arizonan, hailing originally from Ohio, Hamer is from New York. He claims that this unique openness is part of what makes Arizona such a great state.
“Whenever the governor speaks in public, he asks who was born in Arizona – and about 20% of the people raise their hands. He thanks them for building this state and making it so wonderful,” Hamer told the Post. Pointing out that, being the 14th-largest state in the US in terms of population, a lot of people who weren’t born in Arizona have now decided to make it their home.
Another advantage to doing business in Arizona is its state university, he said, ranked by US News & World Report as the most innovative academic center in America five years in a row, thanks to the leadership of president Michael Crow. Arizona State University trains engineers and other skilled workers needed for growth. “Intel is here, with its 10,000 workers,” Hamer told the Post. “Why? Because we have a great pro-business policy.”
Hamer believes Arizona and Israel have a lot of mutual interests in the fields of water technology, agriculture and cyber. He pointed out that support for closer Arizona-Israel relations is shared by Democrats and Republicans, as well as the greater Hispanic community in the state. He says that the best-selling 2011 book Start-Up Nation – The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle “is one of the most important books written in the last 25 years.”