“I entered politics with the understanding that the best way to effect change is from a position of influence,” says Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem between 2008 and 2018 and current Likud MK. “As mayor of Jerusalem for a decade, I led the city to great achievements and implemented changes that generated growth and prosperity. That’s what I intend to do in all of my positions of public service.”
Before entering politics, Barkat was a high-tech entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of Israel’s high-tech industry. He was one of the founders of Check Point, the information security giant, and the company’s first chairman.
Barkat credits Israel’s previous Likud-led government for the country’s current favorable economic situation. “The Israeli economy is growing due to the proper management of the health crisis and the previous Israeli government’s push to vaccinate the majority of Israel’s citizens. Israel became the world leader in administering the corona vaccine, which enabled the economy to navigate its way through the pandemic.” Barkat is critical of the current government’s economic policies and says that rather than presenting a budget that would have provided dramatic growth, the government instead chose to offer a very conservative budget.
Barkat says that Israel’s government must care for the country’s small businesses, especially given the current economic situation. “Small businesses are the growth engine of the Israeli economy,” he states. “The government must provide them with sufficient assistance and show them that the State of Israel shares their pain and does more than simply collect taxes from them. I, too, used to own a small business, and I understand their worries and concerns.”
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Barkat says that corona was a positive catalyst in some areas. “We have seen that employment can be managed differently, and new and advanced businesses have sprung up that will be well-suited for the world of tomorrow,” said Barkat. On the other hand, he points out that the pandemic exposed gaps and unpreparedness in other areas, such as Israel’s educational system. In these areas, says Barkat, “We have to internalize lessons for the future.”
Barkat praised former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for establishing an institute to deal with plagues and viruses. “I am convinced that the institute, with the combination of Israeli brains and entrepreneurial spirit, will bring great news for humanity in the future.”
Speaking of the need to protect Israel from the spread of corona, Barkat says that the country’s borders must be adequately monitored. “Unlike other countries such as those in Europe, it is very easy for us to control the borders, and we must do so in order to maintain a proper and routine lifestyle.” Nevertheless, Barkat cautions that being overly vigilant can be counter-productive. “We must remember that the Israeli economy is also built on foreign tourism and lovers of Israel who come to visit from all over the world. Therefore, the right balance must be found.”
Addressing the balance that Israel must maintain when dealing with its neighbors, Barkat says, “The Middle East is a tough neighborhood, and we must deal harshly with those who are evil and kindly with those who are good. The State of Israel should strive to create cooperative agreements such as the Abraham Accords, which was negotiated by a right-wing government from a position of strength. We must continue to maintain military superiority and clear-headedness so that we may continue to live in peace with our neighbors.”
Barkat, who has made a point to travel to Washington regularly, maintains that the U.S – Israel alliance today is as important as ever. “Over the past few months, I’ve met with dozens of members of Congress, from both parties, and the bipartisan support Israel receives from the U.S. is a strategic imperative,” he says. “As the world contends with major challenges – Covid-19, climate change, threats from Iran and beyond – the alliance will only grow stronger.”
What is Nir Barkat’s vision of Israel over the next thirty years? Answers Barkat, “By then, Israel will be more than 100 years old. Its population will have doubled, and the country will be strong and advanced, with superior security, a free economy, quality and equal education for every child, and an advanced health care system. All areas of the country will be developed and robust.”
This article is taken from The Jerusalem Post Annual Executive Magazine 2021-2022. To read the entire magazine, click here.
This article was written in cooperation with Nir Barkat