Policy: Technology

Benjamin Netanyahu and California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign pro-business pact

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Business,Associated Press,California,Israel,Benjamin Netanyahu,Technology,Jerry Brown

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a swing through the Silicon Valley to meet with high-tech leaders and sign a pro-business agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown.

Wednesday's visit follows Netanyahu's meetings with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., on Monday and his appearance Tuesday at the Los Angeles premiere of a television documentary that features him.

This is the first California visit from an Israeli prime minister since 2006, and Netanyahu is planning a stop at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, as well as a meeting with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who sold his company to Facebook Inc. for $19 billion last month.

Brown and Netanyahu plan to sign an agreement that follows on several decades of commitments from California and Israel leaders to promote trade, research and economic development. There's also promise that arid Israel might have some water conservation advice for California, which is in the midst of a severe drought.

The governor and prime minister's offices released statements that the agreement enables Israeli companies to access the California Innovation Network, a system of 16 iHub business incubators located around the state. IHub directors, who receive no state funding, said Tuesday that companies from Israel and anywhere else already have access to their resources.

"When new technology and new innovation comes to commercialization, everyone benefits from that, so if a new technology comes out of Israel, we can support, we will support it," said Matthew Jenusaitis, CEO of OCTANe, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based iHub. He said his organization has worked with about 10 Israeli firms in the past two years.

There are hundreds of Israeli firms working in partnership with California companies, and in Silicon Valley ties are particularly tight, with more than 150 Israeli startups based there, according to the consulate general of Israel in Los Angeles. In addition, the California Israel Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Facebook, Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc.'s PayPal and others.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley President Russell Hancock said Tuesday that Silicon Valley has become a mandatory stop for state visitors; this year both the French and Haitian prime ministers have toured tech giants in the region.

"Israel and Silicon Valley really are kindred souls in many ways. Israel has a huge concentration of engineers, second only to Silicon Valley. And from what I gather, they're crazy over there just like we're crazy over here, working all hours of the day, going killer on startups and project ideas," he said.

On Tuesday night, Netanyahu attended the premiere in Los Angeles of "Israel: Royal Tour," the latest in a CBS series where heads of state give tours of their nations.

"Am I at the Oscars?" Netanyahu joked, drawing a laugh as he spoke at Paramount Pictures' studio to a group of several hundred local dignitaries and philanthropists just two days after and 2 miles away from Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

The documentary included Netanyahu rafting down the Jordan River and injuring himself playing soccer with children.

"I was ready to sacrifice body and limb for it," the prime minister said. "I tore my Achilles heel playing soccer in a game between Jewish kids and Arab kids."

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