Tech Leaders Raise Concerns With PM Over U.S. Tax Reform

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Feb. 4, 2018
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Feb. 4, 2018Credit: Jim Hollander/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to use Israel’s special relationship with the United States to ensure the tax reforms passed in December by Congress don’t harm Israel’s high-tech industry.

Netanyahu spoke at an unusual nighttime meeting in Petah Tikva with tech industry leaders on Wednesday at the office of NGSoft – a company that belongs to BATM, where he worked as a consultant from 1999 to 2001.

Netanyahu, who opened the meeting with a discussion of his economic views, also spoke with executives about the strong shekel, which is squeezing tech companies that sell or raise capital in dollars while their expenses are in shekels.

They also discussed regulatory barriers to attracting more capital to the sector.

Israel’s tech industry is concerned that the tax reforms will cause Israeli tech companies to relocate operations to the United States.

“The atmosphere was very good,” said BATM CEO Zvi Marom, who organized the meeting.

“We wanted to get answers on government policy and investment in innovation – for example in the area of quantum computing, where government and academic involvement is needed together with the private sector. There was also talk about education, and Netanyahu said he planned to invest a lot of money particularly in science education and mathematics. I believe him,” Marom said.

Attendees included Orna Berry, the CEO of Dell-EMC in Israel; Aharon Aharon, director of the Israel Innovation Authority; Adi Soffer Teeni, the CEO of Facebook Israel; Haim Shani, a tech investor and former treasury director general, as well as representatives of Wix, IBM, SAP and Phillips.