Israel’s high-tech industry was on the agenda as members of the New Jersey-Israel Commission met to discuss cyber-security and possible collaboration between Israel and the Garden State.
Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno was one of the speakers at the first major meeting this year of the commission, which promotes trade and cultural exchanges.
Israel’s tech industry is “exploding,” said Guadagno, “and we want [what that yields] to come down in New Jersey.”
Having described her personal attachment to Israel as “the source of my faith,” Guadagno went on to say, “I don’t want to get into presidential politics, but nothing is more important than making sure our friends are safe and secure.”
Some attending the meeting had also attended a recent conference in Tel Aviv that was billed as the second-largest security conference of its kind in the world.
Jeff Schwartz, vice president of security engineering in North America for the Tel Aviv-based Check Point Software Technologies, said that collaboration across oceans is necessary to combat hackers and other dangers.
“The cost of defense is exponentially more than the cost of attacking,” acknowledged Schwartz, whose company specializes in web security. However, sharing information and collaborating can reduce IT security costs, and make it more expensive to launch an attack.
Such collaboration, he added, has benefits that go well beyond cost reduction.
Amir Sagie, deputy consul general at Israel’s consulate in New York, pointed out that in addition to cyber threats, there have been enormous changes in the challenges Israel faces, especially with the emergence of non-state entities like ISIS and Al Qaida. His government would like to see expanded collaboration between Israel and New Jersey, with more academic and professional exchanges and expansion of shared programs.
Sagie made it clear that Israeli officials are hoping for much greater safeguards than those mentioned in the provisional agreement between Iran and Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program.
“Other countries that use nuclear power for health purposes or to meet their energy needs don’t do enrichment,” he told NJJN afterward. “Why has Iran been allowed to continue enriching uranium? And why is it being allowed to keep its plutonium? That can only be for military purposes.”
In his remarks, commission chair Mark Levenson, a partner in the Newark law firm Sills Cummis Gross, quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quip that both Israel and New Jersey “face hostile neighbors to the north and south.” He said that NJ imports from Israel have increased 25 percent in the past four years, from $793 million in 2010 to over $1.5 billion. NJ exports to Israel in 2014 totaled almost $750 million, he said.
Both Israel and the United States, Levenson said, “are moving in the same direction in terms of energy sufficiency.” Israel, lacking oil, was forced to develop alternative resources. Israel’s discovery of major offshore gas fields, meanwhile, could make Israel energy independent and an energy exporter.
Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, was honored at the meeting. Foxman, a NJ resident who is stepping down in July after 28 years with the ADL, has served for many years as a public member of the commission.