Israel is learning a lesson from its recent skirmish with the European Union over its ban on businesses over the Green Line — the time has come to redirect economic focus from Europe to Asia.
“One of the lessons from Horizon 2020,” Bennett said, “was that we need to diversify, to have a much broader set of arrangements, and not only through the EU Commission. We don’t want to be dependent on any organization or country.”
Israel barely salvaged its participation in the research program, considered to be of paramount importance to the country’s scientific development, which had been at risk due to the dispute over the ban. In the end, Israel agreed not to use EU money over the Green Line, but had a clause inserted in the EU guidelines stating Israel’s objections to the policy.
Now, Israel is taking funds previously earmarked for trade missions in western Europe and channeling them to the east instead, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday from Indonesia, where he is participating in a World Trade Organization conference.
“At the end of the day I am diverting funds from western Europe to open trade missions in China, India and Hong Kong,” he said.
Trade representations in Finland and Sweden, which are currently among the EU members most critical of Israeli policies, are being closed.
Bennett attended the formal opening of the new trade mission in Hong Kong this week.
In Bali, the minister held talks with his counterparts from Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Russia and India. “Everyone is coming over to me here, saying we need your innovation, how do you inject that innovation into your economy. My point of view is that this is our core competency,” he said.
Bennett was the first Israeli minister in 13 years to visit Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. Shimon Peres stopped there briefly in 2000 as minister of regional cooperation.