Everywhere you look, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress today about Iran's nuclear ambitions was portrayed as a hyper-controversial event. About 40 to 50 Democrats in Congress boycotted the address, apparently in deference to President Obama's personal feelings, which were reportedly hurt when House Speaker John Boehner scheduled the event without White House approval.
A lot, and probably too much, has been written already about who's to blame for this political scuffle. But let me save you some time by telling you the debate is breaking very cleanly along the left-right partisan line, with liberals generally blaming Netanyahu for straining U.S.-Israeli relations and conservatives insisting President Obama has simply chosen to be offended as he tries to make a nuclear deal with Iran.
But one of the great things about working at a financial news network is having the clarity to rise above political nonsense and look at how the investment world is talking while the political baloney is walking. And on that score, there is no controversy and there are no questions.
The investment world isn't boycotting Israel or walking out on the Netanyahu government. In fact, over the past few years—despite wars and terror attacks—foreign investment in, and partnerships with, Israel have soared to such new highs that it's a wonder anyone with any positive or negative feelings toward Israel can focus on anything else.
Let me just give you the latest stunning statistics: Exports of Israeli goods surged by an annualized 22.9 percent from November to January, after a 24.4 percent increase from August to October. High tech exports led the way, but mining and quarrying in a land once thought to be devoid of natural resources also rose by almost 25 percent. Fourth quarter GDP in 2014 was expected to be 3.3 percent, but it came in at
Moving beyond the numbers, there are other meaningful signs of Israel's ever-growing vital role in the world's economy. Last month the CEO of the world's most valuable company, Tim Cook of Apple, visited Israel to to open a new Apple research and development center and also to state his strong commitment to using and expanding the Israeli population's educational resources. The government of India is ratcheting up its economic, political and military ties with Israel almost on a daily basis, a development that resonates as the world's second most populous nation creates strong bonds with a country of much fewer than 10 million people.
And even a very liberal American state like California, with its very liberal Governor Jerry Brown, recently put its money where its real concerns are, partnering with an Israeli firm to design and build the largest seawater desalination project in the Western Hemisphere.
The list goes on an on. Even a cursory glance at American, Israeli and Indian business news produces more examples each day. It's enough to make even the most pessimistic Israeli, or American supporter of Israel, step back. These strides really aren't that susceptible to political winds. The biggest players in pharma, tech, missile defense, etc. aren't going to stop doing business with Israel over a speech, or even an election or two. And as long as Israel has the soundest democracy in the Middle East to go along with the strongest military, foreign investors will see the Jewish state as a pretty safe investment bet.
But one thing could throw a wrench into all of this: a nuclear Iran. If Iran is able to neutralize Israel's military by backing up terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah with a nuclear bomb, all those bets could be off. Foreign companies may be more likely to avoid setting up or expanding plants and operations in Israel as Apple and Intel have done recently. Travel to and from Israel would be much more likely to suffer disruptions like we saw last August during the war in Gaza. The list of financial negatives resulting from a nuclear Iran is almost endless. That's why I believe a large number of business leaders and investors were glued to Netanyahu's speech today as they assess the future viability of financial ties with Israel.
So while some overly partisan and hyperbolic elected officials seemed intent on acting out this latest act of absurd political theater by not listening to Netanyahu today, the more serious and mature financial leaders of the world were all ears.