Upgrade for Israel

On July 13, 2022, the day of President Biden’s arrival in Israel, a “Joint US-Israel Statement on Launching Strategic High-Level Dialogue on Technology” was simultaneously published on the respective websites of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the White House.

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The US and Israel have a long history of science and technology agreements. The better-known frameworks are the three binational foundations (BSF, BARD, and BIRD)[1] that were established in the 1970s. The three foundations are considered pillars of US-Israel science and technology (non-defense) cooperation and share several unique features (see, for example, this study). In its early days, the BIRD Foundation’s contribution was critical to the growth of the Israeli hi-tech sector[2].

Moreover, in 1994, former US president Bill Clinton, and the late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, established the US-Israel Science and Technology Commission (USISTC), which complemented the work of the existing foundations and was active for about 20 years.

More recently, towards the end of 2020, the two governments signed a new agreement for scientific and technological cooperation. The execution of this agreement falls under the responsibility of the US Department of State and the Israel Ministry of Science and Innovation. It provides a very general framework and includes “all disciplines of research, inter alia: basic research and applied research, and other technological areas in which [the Parties] may subsequently decide to cooperate.”

Additionally, there are specific agreements between US and Israeli agencies which are focused on science and technology or contain significant elements of science and technology, such as between the US Department of Energy and the Israel Ministry of Energy, between the US Department of Homeland Security and the Israel Ministry of Public Security, and others.

The new initiative establishes a high-level framework which will convene annually to discuss technology cooperation and technological matters of interest, to both the US and Israel. It sets the goal of boosting the innovation ecosystems of both countries, and it provides a list of topics “to discuss advancing specific projects.”

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One of the topics included in the joint statement is climate change. This is great news and emphasizes the need for Israel to join forces with the US, mainly by investing talent and resources, in climate science and technology innovation. Achieving the goal of net-zero by 2050 requires innovation and new approaches to technology development, therefore, the need to start such a new cooperation program is urgent. Hopefully, this will be an early outcome of the new strategic dialogue.

The second topic in the joint statement is artificial intelligence (AI), asserting the importance of trustworthy AI and privacy-enhancing technologies. The work should lead to the definition of specific AI areas for cooperation and prepare the background for starting a possible new program, as previously proposed in this blog.

Another very important area included in the joint statement is cooperative R&D for pandemic preparedness. The US Congress has already allocated initial funding for US-Israel cooperation in innovative health technologies, which could be expanded significantly by applying a top-down approach and allocating proper resources to deal with the joint challenges “for disease surveillance and early warning for rapid countermeasures responses.”

The US is at the forefront and still leading in science and technology. However, the global innovation race is heating up, and the competition is stiff. Israel can, and should be an active partner of the US in facing this competition, as expressed numerous times by US and Israeli leaders and included in US legislation language. The recent joint statement issued along with President Biden’s visit to Israel establishes a high-level framework, and provides initial guidance on how to turn declarations into reality. This is, no doubt, an upgrade for Israel.

[1] BSF= US-Israel Binational Science Foundation; BARD= US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation; BIRD= Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation.

[2] Partnering for Progress – BIRD: 30 Years of Collaboration, in here.

About the Author
Dr. Eitan Yudilevich completed his doctoral studies in computers and systems engineering in the field of medical imaging in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He earned his Master's Degree in mathematics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in electrical engineering at Haifa's Technion. Dr. Yudilevich assumed the Executive Director position at the BIRD Foundation on January 1, 2006.
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