Podcast – The Future of U.S.-Israel Relations with Rep. Ted Deutch
In this episode of "The Eyes on Washington Podcast" series, Public Policy & Regulation attorney and co-chair of the firm's Israel Practice Meital Stavinsky spoke with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22) about the current relationship between the United States and Israel and what the future might look like for the two countries. Their conversation highlighted opportunities for investment in high tech and infrastructure development given the existence of programs like the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act and the Abraham Accords. They also covered the impact and future of the bilateral commercial and defense relationship between Israel and the United States. They touched on the varying levels of support for the relationship as of late, as well as opportunities for future collaboration. Additionally, they described Israel’s wealth of innovation in a number of developing industries as a key opportunity for the U.S. and other allies in the region.Want more? View all of our Public Policy & Regulation podcasts »
Meital Stavinsky: I'm truly honored to have the pleasure of speaking today with U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch. Congressman Deutch represents Florida's 22nd District, serving his seventh term in Congress. He is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism. He is chair of the House Ethics Committee and a senior member on the House Judiciary Committee. For decades, Congressman Deutch has been steadfast, passionate, advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and stood for Israel's right to defend itself in a hostile region. Congressman Deutch, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.
Rep. Ted Deutch: Thanks, Meital. Really wonderful to be with you. I appreciate the opportunity.
The Middle East Partnership for Peace Act and The Abraham Accords: Opportunities for Investment in High Tech and Infrastructure
Meital Stavinsky: So, let's go back before prior to the recent escalation, the passage of the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, as well as the Abraham Accords, held a lot of promise for investment in high tech and infrastructure development for both Israelis and Palestinians. Where do you see this going now?
Rep. Ted Deutch: Well, these are both really significant initiatives and in the recent conflict, I think, really highlighted the need for programs like this that recognize that we have to look for ways to both improve the quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians because that benefits Israel's security as well, and for finding ways for Israel to engage more fully with its Arab neighbors, those in the Sunni Arab world. So, the step that we've taken these two steps are really significant. The Partnership for Peace Act, the Nita Lowey Partnership for Peace Act, I have to add, something that my dear former colleague Nita Lowey, championed for such a long time now has her name on it as it should, is $250 million program over five years. It goes to two funds to the People Partnership for Peace Fund and the Joint Investment for Peace Initiative. What it does is it gives us the opportunity to make tangible and create tangible, lasting connections between Israelis and Palestinians and create infrastructure in the West Bank and provide opportunities for Palestinians, you know, bring Israelis and Palestinians together. All the times I've traveled and have met with Israelis and Palestinians, everybody wants their lives to be better, they just want to have good lives, they want to break down tension, they want opportunities to succeed for themselves and for their families. These initiatives, this economic investment will help to create those ties. It's really, really significant, and I'm working hard to make sure that it's implemented fully for the benefit of peace and to help bring Israelis and Palestinians together. As far as the Abraham accords, it's pretty remarkable. I think we would all agree when you stop and think about the fact that Israel is now normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Morocco. And I mean, of course, Morocco has a long history of strong Jewish community. That provides really significant opportunities. First, from an economic standpoint, and I think we need to build upon that and encourage that kind of, not just government to government, but private sector to private sector interaction. I think that's really significant. But, we also have to recognize there's the chance, and we're seeing it as we come through the pandemic and tourism increases, we'll see more of it, of real people to people interaction. People from Dubai really anxious to go to Tel Aviv, Israelis really anxious to go to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. That just as one example, Morocco, I spent some time with the Moroccan ambassador the other day and she talked about the influx of people they're expecting. I think all of this is really setting the stage for dramatic growth in the relations between Israel and other countries in the region. And most importantly, these opportunities to bring people together socially, economically and in ways that will only provide greater opportunity for all.
All of this is really setting the stage for dramatic growth in the relations between Israel and other countries in the region. And most importantly, these opportunities to bring people together socially, economically and in ways that will only provide greater opportunity for all.
Threats to the Bilateral Commercial and Defense Relationship: Voices on the Margins
Meital Stavinsky: Absolutely. And I can tell you personally, I know so many Israelis, family and friends that have been already traveling there. It's very exciting and very hopeful and we have to keep being hopeful. So, Congress has always unwaveringly supported the bilateral commercial and defense relationship with Israel and combated BDS. In light of those recent voices we've heard, do you see a viable threat to this support or within the Democratic Party?
Rep. Ted Deutch: Look, the answer is that the support for Israel and the U.S.'s relationship is deep, it is bipartisan, and it will continue to be that way. Yes, there are some voices on the margins who have made arguments that range from problematic to outrageous, quite frankly. I'm not going to dignify the arguments by recounting them. The vast majority, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress recognize the importance of supporting this relationship. That's why we passed a resolution condemning BDS, overwhelmingly, with over 400 votes. It's why, just recently, I led an effort with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans reaffirming our commitment to U.S. security assistance without any conditions. That's why the legislation that I passed to expand all of the ways the U.S. and Israel can work together passed unanimously in the House. So, yes, there are voices that we need to confront and call out and point out where they are wrong, but we also need to continue to lift up the voices, so many strong young voices, new members of Congress just over the past two terms from Richie Torez, who's a new member now, Ali Luria, who is now in her second term just to right off the top, Cathy Manning is a new member now, these are strong pro-Israel Democrats who really represent, I think, the future of the relationship. They need to be given the opportunity to speak out and to be heard. I know it's tempting to often listen to the loudest voices and the most extreme voices. Certainly that's something that we got used to during the last administration. But it doesn't serve us well when we focus entirely on voices, especially when they aren't representative of the whole and the whole continues to be strongly supportive of Israel.
There are voices that we need to confront and call out and point out where they are wrong, but we also need to continue to lift up the voices, so many strong young voices, new members of Congress.
The Future of the Bilateral Commercial Relationship: Collaboration with Innovative Israeli Companies
Meital Stavinsky: Absolutely. And thank you so much for saying that and mentioning those members and those legislations that you've led. You really, truly authorized a number of pieces of legislation that have opened up the bilateral commercial relationship. As co-chairs of the Israel Practice at Holland & Knight, both former Congressman Ron Klein and myself, we work closely with amazingly innovative Israeli companies, Israeli companies that are eager to collaborate with U.S. companies, expand operations in the U.S. and create innovative jobs here. There is such a wealth of innovation in Israel, in so many areas that are of interest here in the U.S., just to name a few: cybersecurity, 3-D printing, climate technologies, renewable energy, water technologies, agriculture technologies and food tech and I know you're a vegan, and in Israel plant-based food tech is truly an exciting space with innovative plant-based meat and other animal based food alternatives. So, where do you see the bilateral commercial relationship going and what does it mean for business?
Rep. Ted Deutch: Well, what you've described is exactly what we've been trying to help lift up in Congress. The opportunities that exist between the United States and Israel because of the kind of innovative companies that you just described are really significant. So, I have authored a couple of pieces of legislation over the past years that really look at all of the ways that we can grow the U.S.-Israel relationship. So we established a U.S.-Israel energy center. We established cooperation on water issues that can no doubt have an impact in the region more broadly. The focus on climate that you talked about and the technology that's being done, that's being implemented there. We passed legislation to expand cooperation on health tech, which is a huge issue that we Israelis are really out in front on, especially as it's focused on COVID-19 and the pandemic. We also, this is not the private sector, but we also thought it was important for all the times that we've heard about how IsraAid, the Israeli humanitarian organization, is always the first on the ground often, usually the first on the ground, wherever there's a disaster around the world, why not find ways for Israeli and American humanitarian groups to work together. So so we've done that. Businesses have so many opportunities to really support emerging fields like the ones that you've talked about and some of the partnerships for Americans and Israelis have existed for decades, the BARD program I know you're familiar with. So it's a natural evolution for us to now include the private sector. It's why we see so many U.S. companies establishing offices in Israel. And if you're an American company that wants to partner with a nation in the Middle East and you want to expand your market, and Israel is a country that is, as we talked about earlier, expanding its platform in the region, then you've got this democratic nation that respects the rule of law - that's the place that you're going to want to be. And as we look to really combat the efforts of China and its economic diplomacy, these global partnerships are really critical and that's what we're trying to help achieve.
It's why we see so many U.S. companies establishing offices in Israel. And if you're an American company that wants to partner with a nation in the Middle East and you want to expand your market, Israel is a country that is...expanding its platform in the region...that's the place that you're going to want to be.
Meital Stavinsky: Thank you so much, Congressman. And you brought up China, which is a hot topic these days in Washington, D.C. and with this great deal of focus on ensuring the U.S. can outcompete China and the race for critical foundational technologies and greater independence and strength in this space is very high on the list. And as the U.S. looks, like you mentioned, to invest in emerging technologies and partner with democracies to compete with China, do you see any specific opportunities that this may bring for this collaboration with Israeli companies?
Rep. Ted Deutch: I do. As I alluded to before, we need to create partnerships with our allies. Israel is obviously a perfect example of a country with a strong relationship with the United States, it's an example of a country that's also being courted by China. And as we look forward we want the U.S. to be the preferred partner, that's the way that we ought to approach China. We know that China doesn't require the kinds of strings attached that the U.S. does. All the more reason why we ought to be working with our Democratic allies, with strong democratic principles around emerging technologies and respect for the intellectual property and making sure that rule of law is upheld and it's natural to do that between the United States and countries like Israel. It's also important, I think, for us to work with Israel and our European allies as well. I mean, I know that China is always looking for markets, not just for technology, but for military hardware and military technology as well. And I think we need to work with our allies to make sure that everyone understands what it's like to have innovation and rule of law and protections for intellectual property and respect for democracy. Those countries who share that I think need to work really closely together. That's the best way to combat a rising China.
Meital Stavinsky: Congressman Deutch, I can't thank you enough. You've brightened my day, my week, my year, which is very positive. So really, I have no words to express my gratitude and it's truly on behalf of so many, for everything that you do and everything that you stand for. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Rep. Ted Deutch: Thanks, Meital. I appreciate the opportunity a lot and regards to everybody, everyone here and all of your colleagues and our friends in Israel as well.