Delaware Governor Seeks to Strengthen Ties With Israeli Business

Jack Markell, the only sitting Jewish governor in the U.S., is in Israel promoting Delaware as a hub for Israeli business incorporation and dabbling in the Tel Aviv lifestyle.

Governor Jack Markell of Delaware praised the Israeli “can do spirit” and touted his state’s business-friendly laws and tax structure while visiting Israel this week on an economic development mission.

Markell, 52, the only sitting Jewish governor, said in an interview in Tel Aviv on Tuesday that one of the goals of the four-day trip – his ninth to Israel but first as governor – is to promote Delaware as the “place of choice” for Israeli businesses to incorporate in North America.

“One of the things we know is that Israeli businesses are looking for people to facilitate partnerships with early adopters and with the work force, and this is something that we are especially well suited to do,” Markell said, adding that thousands of Israeli companies have already incorporated in Delaware due to its sophisticated corporate governance structure and proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C.

On Monday, President Shimon Peres received the governor’s delegation and called ties between Israel and Delaware “very special.” The delegation also met with representatives of Matimop, a non-profit organization that facilitates collaborations between Israeli and foreign companies, and with the Israeli branch of the chemical company DuPont, which is headquartered in Delaware. Later in the week, it is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to dine with a group of Israeli venture capitalists.

“The amazing thing about Israel is the progress that it has made in the face of so many challenges,” said Markell, who first visited as a 6-year-old boy shortly after the conclusion of the Six Day War and has many relatives in the country. “There’s a can-do spirit, which in the end is as important as having a very capable, highly-educated workforce.”

Although there are only about 15,000 Jews in Delaware, one of the country’s smallest states, Markell noted with pride that for the first time in the state’s history both the governor and lieutenant governor are Jewish.

“I think that’s a very positive reflection on the people of my state, that they’re fair-minded,” he said. “It’s also important to me that I am able to show Jewish kids throughout the United States that even if they come from an area without a big Jewish population, they can be elected governor.”

In addition to his duties as governor, Markell, a Democrat, serves as chair of the bipartisan National Governors Association. Asked to comment about Governor Rick Perry’s announcement on Monday that he will not seek a fourth term as governor of Texas, which does not have terms limits, Markell said: “In Delaware, we have term limits, which I think is wise. It’s always a good thing for somebody to come in with new perspective and new energy.”

An avid cyclist, Markell said he found time on Monday afternoon to rent a Tel-O-Fun bicycle and ride along the Mediterranean Sea and the Yarkon River.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “I think these investments in quality of life make a big difference. It gets back to the issue that talented people want to work in the places they want to live, and for Tel Aviv to have absolutely gorgeous beaches and this beautiful promenade, with so many people running and biking, it makes it a very livable city.”

Doni Lerner