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"The Russians don't look kindly on the military cooperation of Israeli firms with the Georgian army, and as far as I know, Israelis doing security consulting left Georgia in the past few days because of the events there," the former Israeli ambassador to Georgia and Armenia, Baruch Ben Neria, said yesterday. After his posting, Ben Neria represented Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in Georgia.

Israelis are active in real estate, tourism, gaming, military manufacturing and security consulting in the Caucasian republic. Among the more recognizable names are former Tel Aviv mayor Roni Milo, former Georgian and Russian immigration emissary Itzik Moshe, Likud bigwig and gambling operator Reuven Gavrieli, and Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch. The latter does security consulting.

In the past Rafael tried to sell equipment to the Georgian army, and Israel Aerospace Industries has carried out aircraft upgrades and sold unmanned aerial vehicles to the state.

Ben Neria said the events in Georgia will affect the country's strategic, economic and international affairs in the immediate and medium terms.

"Georgia is located in a strategic place, between Turkey, Russia and Iran," Ben Neria said. "In the past four years it has developed economically, particularly in the real estate, tourism and service sectors. The Russians, for geopolitical and strategic reasons, will not permit Georgia to become a forward NATO base on their border and will not permit it to develop a burgeoning economy."

Other Israelis who have considered investing in Georgia in the past two years include Eyal Ofer, Ofer Nimrodi, Lev Leviev, Doron Aviv and the Phoenix insurance company.

Among the Israeli companies that have already invested in Georgia are Gaon Holdings, Shapir and Gmul Investment.