It is an old adage that things change quickly in Israel. That was evident when we started our day with the Minister of Tourism, who just before our meeting had announced that he was taking a leave of absence from politics and would not be running in the upcoming election.
From there we went to a factory where we met a visionary CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, who has the energy, passion, drive and enthusiasm of Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz of Starbucks combined. He took a company on the verge of bankruptcy and turned it around to be extremely profitable. We toured the Sodastream factory which is committed to putting out a quality product which is environmentally sound and goes out of its way to employ Arabs and have exemplary employment practices. We were all blown away and impressed by what we saw and heard and the contribution it is making to Israel’s economy.
Ron Dermer, special adviser to the Prime Minister, is to Netanyahu what David Axelrod is to Obama and Karl Rove was to Bush. In his meeting with us he spoke about the Pillar of Defense operation and said the success of Iron Dome, as well as the international support for Israel, saved lives and shortened the war. He spoke about the Gaza operation, the UN vote and other policy and security matters. In the course of an extended open-ended freewheeling discussion we raised issues pertaining to promoting tolerance for the streams of Judaism and rolling back infringements on religious expression by non-Orthodox. The inability to further this openness and other options for Jewish religious expression is thwarted by the Israeli political system which caters to the small parties and disproportionately increases their influence.
Also published on Medium.