Reversing nearly seven decades of opposition to Israel in the UN, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited Israel this past month, the first time an Indian PM ever visited. In Photo: President Rivlin holds a working meeting with PM Modi in Jerusalem.
As a Jewish American committed to Israel’s well-being, I am concerned by the volatility in diplomatic sentiment towards Israel. We witnessed such a swing last December when the UN Security Council voted to effectively disassociate Israel from Jerusalem, only to rebound a few months later when Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, brazenly and unapologetically supported Israel and called out its detractors. Since that time, there have been multiple expressions of support from the UN Secretary General and several other global leaders, but in no way does anyone believe that diplomatic animus towards Israel has gone away, particularly with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement actively working to delegitimize Israel.
Since I am a businessman, I look for solutions through commerce in addition to political activism. I have recently become acquainted with an intriguing investment initiative that seeks to positively impact Israel’s diplomatic positioning in the world: the Israel Global Impact Index®. There are many ways to invest in Israel and I am not necessarily advocating this particular index. To be clear, I have no financial or other connection to the investment advisory firm that developed and manages this strategy. I simply think it is effective to vote with your money as well as your voice and feet, and I know many of us in the Wexner network understand the power and leadership potential of financial investment.
What I find appealing is its unique “dual” investment approach to simultaneously support Israel’s interests, as well as those of a pro-Israel investor seeking competitive market returns that this kind of investing accomplishes. It strikes me as a win-win investment strategy that should appeal to Israel supporters throughout the political spectrum.
The Index is an investment portfolio which invests in Israel’s economic trade partners and whose underlying thesis dovetails with the Israeli government’s strategy of economic diplomacy. It is an effort to enhance diplomatic relations through expansion of economic trade. An excellent example of this concept in action is India, which reversed nearly seven decades of opposition to Israel in the UN with three shocking abstentions in 2015. The logic for this change is economic (including defense-industry) trade. India went from about $200 million in trade to several billion dollars from 1992 until the present. As an expression of the warmth in relations, in early July Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel and the two countries are working to expand trade even further. Instances of economic diplomacy are numerous in Europe and particularly in Asia, where trade is growing rapidly.
The Israel Global Impact Index® is intertwined with economic diplomacy, as it recognizes that foreign governments opt to trade with Israel purely out of their own economic self-interest. As Adam Smith wrote in the 18th century, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Therefore, it is Israel’s priority to forge strong diplomatic relations on its own throughout the world, beyond the US, to ensure its long-term national security interests. As such, the Israel Global Impact Index® invests in Israel’s top 15 economic trade partners, based on their level of trade with Israel. As trade expands between the countries, the allocation to that country is increased. There is also a direct investment in Israel as well as in two US sectors that are critical to Israel’s economic and national security: Technology and Aerospace & Defense. The portfolio is globally diversified and provides investors a means to align themselves with Israel’s interests. Most importantly, it creates a feedback loop to Israel’s trade partners (foreign governments) by informing them that their trade with Israel is leading to equity investment in their country. For more information, feel free to contact me.
Scott M. Cohen is a Wexner Heritage Program Alum (Washington, DC 03) based in Washington, DC and is the Managing Partner at Capitol Companies, a real estate and private equity investment firm. Scott served as President of the Bender JCC of Greater Washington from 2011-2013, Chair of the Bender JCC of Greater Washington $16M Centennial Capital Campaign (2013-2017), Vice President for Administration of B’nai Israel Congregation & Talmud Torah from 2003-2004 and General Chair of the B’nai Israel Congregation & Talmud Torah $14M Capital Campaign (1999-2001). Additionally, Scott has served on the Board of Governors of B’nai Israel Congregation & Talmud Torah, Board of Governors of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Board of Governors of the Bender JCC of Greater Washington and Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.