5 things to know about U.S.-Israel economic ties

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no shortage of issues to discuss during their meeting in the White House Wednesday. Among the hot-button topics were the Iranian nuclear deal, which both leaders have criticized, the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the Jewish state’s controversial plan to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank.  

Though the political relationship between the two countries was rocky during the Obama administration, they remain close allies. Their economic relationship also continues to be robust -- even as some activists call for consumers to boycott Israeli goods to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians.

Here’s a look at five key business ties between the U.S. and Israel:

  1. Israel has received the most U.S. military aid of any country since it was founded in 1948 because its neighbors in the Middle East have vowed to wipe if off the map. Even when the relationship hit a rough patch during the Obama years, the money continued to flow. The U.S. agreed last year to provide $38 billion in assistance over the next decade, the largest deal of its kind ever. However, it was less than what Netanyahu wanted. Israel will use the aid to buy American weapons and defense equipment, such as Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

  2. The U.S. and Israel have had a free trade agreement since 1985. According to the U.S. Office of Trade Representative, America imports a wide variety of goods from the Jewish state, such as precious stones ($9 billion worth in 2013), pharmaceuticals ($5.4 billion), machinery ($1.4 billion) and optical and medical instruments ($1.3 billion). As of 2012 (the latest data available), U.S. exports to Israel totaled $18 billion, while imports from there totaled $27 billion.

  3. According to Harvard Business Review, Israel has more startups per capita than any other country in the world. With a population of about 8 million, it has the third-most Nasdaq-listed companies, trailing only the U.S. The IVC Research Center estimates that Israeli high-tech firms raised $2.8 billion in the first six months of last year, up 35 percent from the year-earlier period.

  4. Among the Israeli companies with U.S. market valuations topping $1 billion are Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA), the largest maker of generic drugs; SodaStream International (SODA), which sells do-it-yourself soda-making kits; Check Point Software (CHKP); and Caesarstone (CSTE), a maker of building materials.

  5. Many U.S. tech companies have set up R&D offices in Israel, including Apple (AAPL), Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL), IBM (IBM), Cisco (CSCO) and Intel (INTC). Biotech and pharmaceuticals also are big in Israel. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has invested in the sector, as have U.S. companies interested in medical marijuana. According to Israeli government figures, the country has about 1,380 life sciences firms.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.