The CEO of Israeli chipmaker Mellanox, Eyal Waldman, said he once told a former defense minister not to bomb his company's building in Gaza City during an Israeli army campaign in the Strip. Waldman revealed the exchange during an interview with TheMarker Magazine editor-in-chief, Eitan Avriel.
Mellanox is active in Hebron, Nablus, Gaza and Rawabi. What brought you there and how does it work, practically?
"When there were complex days of combat in Gaza last week, the Gazan employees also participated in a conference call with Jensen, the CEO of Nvidia. Instead of talking, we should do. Ten years ago we wanted to decrease development costs. An engineer in Gaza costs a fifth, in the West Bank a third. They have 70 percent unemployment of university graduate who don't work at their profession. Why wouldn't we give these smart people a chance to work? It's nearly impossible to separate our economies. Hamas is completely aware Gaza has an Israeli company hiring employees, and it has no problem with it. The wages we give there are five times the average in the region. We've brought more companies there.
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"During the Jewish New Year, Gazan employees fixed a bug our customer had in Microsoft, while we in Israel were on vacation. I encourage a lot of Israeli companies to work this way. It's more complicated in Gaza but I'd be glad to help any company that would want to do it. There's a saying by Yoda – fear leads to suffering. We're afraid of them and they're afraid of us, once you move past that, things work."
The Israeli business sector could do more things that bear political meaning in the long run?
"As businessmen, we can be influential. It increases profitability and for them it's an amazing income. They're good and dedicated employees, and it vastly improves the geopolitical situation."
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How do you deal with the political pressures?
"There's no reason politicians would dictate to companies where to hire. A former defense minister came to me and I told him not to bomb our buildings. In the Second Lebanon War and three Gaza campaigns, we kept working. Politics don't get in."
They never said "launch from that building because they wouldn't bomb it?"
"Nobody knew they wouldn't bomb it. The right approach is 'let's prevents rocket launches with peace and not with war.' I have no problem doing the things that need to be done, If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first. With that being said, you need to strive for dialogue and action to achieve piece."
You have a passion for finding solutions in society in general, perhaps you should go into politics?
"I have so much work. I don't get a lot of sleep anyway, I don't have time for it."