January 14, 2002

Israel’s reputation of being an old hand at coping with terror threats could produce dividends.Israel’s economic delegation in New York and the Israel Export Institute are initiating a road show in the United States for Israeli companies dealing in security and related fields. The objective is to allow those companies to present to U.S. companies and government agencies Israeli expertise in internal security and the fight against terrorism.

Conferences will be held in New York on Feb. 19, in Chicago, in early March, and in Los Angeles in mid-March. The conferences are intended to meet the growing demand in the United States for security products and services following the Sept. 11 attacks. Demand is coming from private companies and from government agencies at all levels: federal, state, county and municipal. The conferences will help Israeli companies participating in the road show to display their products to U.S. decision-makers who control huge internal security budgets.

The project will be one of the biggest initiated by Israeli economic missions abroad. A U.S. company is helping the New York delegation organize the conferences.

Israeli Economic Minister to North America Zohar Peri told Globes that participants in the conferences would include Israeli companies belonging to seven categories: computer systems and electronic security; building and facility protection; civil defense; protection against biological, chemical and other mass destruction terrorism; planning, training and organizing security systems; flight security (in the air and in airports); and startup companies with maturing ideas on security and protection.

Peri said the intention was to spot well-established Israeli companies with existing products or with proven experience and ability to install systems immediately. At the same time, the door is also open to startup companies that have something to offer. “If we end up with about 50 Israeli companies and 300 American decision-makers, we’ll consider it a great success,” Peri said.

A similar, but smaller, conference was held in Mexico City on the initiative of Israel’s Commercial Counselor to Mexico Isaac Castiel. Five Israeli companies participated in the event, which attracted hundreds of professionals.

“We’re expecting senior representatives from the U.S. administration and from various organizations and companies dealing with various aspects of the fight against terrorism – from deterrence to response,” Peri said. “Our target audience is the professionals – public servants or private sector businessmen – who specialize in various aspects of the fight against terrorism; for instance, police chiefs or the heads of other law enforcement agencies, the heads of public health agencies, rescue and fire-fighting organizations, internal security officials of all levels, senior executives from information technology and telecommunications companies, companies specializing in robotics and unmanned vehicles, and security companies.”

Peri, formerly responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Americans at all levels of government and in the private sector had realized that the United States was not geared to cope with the threat of terrorism. Almost overnight, great demand was created for technologies, expertise and professional manpower in this sector. At this stage, the demand has not yet been fully met.

”The Americans are well aware of Israel’s experience. They’re looking for information, and they’re interested in listening,” Peri said. “They’re extraordinarily willing to listen to Israel when it comes to internal security. It may be difficult to set up meetings with businessmen on ordinary economic issues, but when it comes to internal security, the American response is immediate. Another token of the great interest is the number of approaches made to us and to other Israeli bodies.”

Peri thinks that many Israeli companies are apprehensive about entering the U.S. market on the mistaken assumption that the United States has already got just about everything, Peri said. “We see that in internal security the U.S. hasn’t got just about everything. And even where it does, there’s a great shortage of supply. In the near future, government and private bodies won’t be able to meet all the demand for security products and services.

”The Americans decided they must protect everything. Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge recently said that his agency was looking for solutions and ideas in the private market, and even published a list of wanted technologies.”

The United States Senate has approved a $20 billion appropriation for internal security. The House of Representatives previously approved a similar package for the present fiscal year. The appropriation, part of the military expenses budget bill, will be sent to a joint Senate-House of Representatives committee to iron out differences and will probably soon be presented to the president.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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