Netanyahu: Israel moved from ‘Start-up Nation’ to being ‘Innovation Nation’

Netanyahu: Israel moved from ‘Start-up Nation’ to being ‘Innovation Nation’

Israeli prime minister praises country's ingenuity during Innovation Summit 2018 attended by Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan

Joe Millis is a journalist

Benjamin Netanyahu with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan
Benjamin Netanyahu with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan

Forget the Start-up Nation, Israel is now the Innovation Nation, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu was speaking last week at the Prime Minister’s Israeli Innovation Summit 2018: Innovation for a Better World.

The summit, attended by Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Eric Schmidt, the former Executive Chairman of Google and its parent company Alphabet, Jack Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group and leaders of Israel’s high-tech industries, marked the opening of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa.

Mr Netanyahu said: “There is something happening in Israel when the Vice-President of the world’s second-largest economy visits to view its innovative spirit.

“We have become the Innovation Nation and we want to innovate with you around the world – and if you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Israel spends 4.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on Research and Development (R&D), the highest in the world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. By contrast the UK spends only 1.7 percent of its GDP on R&D.

Mr Netanyahu said the investment was paying off in the fields of digital health, agriculture and fighting pollution.

“We must not rest on our laurels, though. Our mission is to keep Israel as a global tech force,” he noted.

Innovation, added the Prime Minister, was “a force for peace, and our growing ties with the Arab world are based on common threats and opportunities in the fields of water, health and communications”. He called on the Arab states to “partner with Israel, for your sakes, for our sakes and for the world’s sake”.

Indeed, on Friday it was revealed that Mr Netanyahu had visited Muscat in Oman to hold talks with its leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Vice-President Wang said: “Over seven decades, Israel has transformed from a country of immigrants with a weak foundation to one of the few developed countries in the Middle East thanks to innovation.

“Israel is now a world-renowned country of innovation. There is a lot in common between our two countries and a lot to achieve through cooperation.”

And, going off script in a move that shocked some veteran China-watchers, VP Wang, a close confidante of President Xi Jinping, praised Mr Netanyahu, saying: “I wish I could speak like Mr Netanyahu had, but I don’t have the courage or the ability. And courage is what the Chinese government must have, China must follow Israel’s lead.”

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