In Israel, Georgia leaders aim to deepen a ‘fruitful’ relationship

Credit: Greg Bluestein/AJC

Credit: Greg Bluestein/AJC

HERZLIYA, Israel — Some were curious about Georgia’s governor and the economic opportunities he promised his home state could offer. Others came ready to network with top state officials.

More than 100 executives and local officials gathered Monday in a Tel Aviv suburb for a U.S. Embassy reception for Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s delegation to Israel, a strong turnout that surprised Israeli organizers.

As the crowd took a break from networking, Kemp used his speech to highlight the state’s pro-Israel legislation and market Georgia as a go-to destination for the country’s firms.

AJC Political Insider Greg Bluestein reports from Israel.

He drew loud applause for a 2022 law that requires businesses with large state contracts to pledge not to boycott Israel, along with a hate-crimes measure he signed that ended 16 years of debate over new legal protections.

“We’re privileged to be among allies, friends, but also valued trade partners, especially as you celebrate 75 years of independence,” the governor said.

While Israel isn’t a key cog in Georgia’s economy, state officials say there’s potential for trade ties to grow.

Last year, total trade between Georgia and Israel paled in comparison with other partners such as South Korea and Canada. But it still reached $1.2 billion — a 26% increase over the past year.

There are signs it could grow: A new Delta Air Lines direct flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv has already expanded to five days a week. And state officials plan a sweep of visits aimed at scoring new projects from Israel.

Earlier on Monday, the delegation visited the high-rise headquarters of JFrog, a Tel Aviv-based software firm with offices in Sandy Springs and ambitions to expand globally.

And officials toured a heavily fortified factory where a joint partnership between Savannah-based Gulfstream and IAI build luxury G-280 business jets for the global elite.

On Sunday, Kemp met for roughly an hour with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned Kemp about the dangers of a nuclear-capable Iran and the need for closer diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia.

At Monday’s event, Kemp told Israeli officials that Georgia has long had a special relationship with the Holy Land. The state has had a consular presence in Israel for 67 years, and an economic liaison here since 1994.

“That really speaks to our values and our relationship,” Kemp said, adding: “The friendship has been fruitful for all parties.”