The honoree was brief but razor-sharp in his acceptance of the recognition and his explanation for why his faith in doing business with Israel is so strong.
Brad Young, the Southeast executive director of Israel Bonds, admired the crowd of 250 who gathered to extol Deal’s merits.
“Governor Deal is being recognized for his staunch support of Georgia’s investment in Israel, making it one of 23 states that have Israel Bonds in their portfolio,” Young said. “Under his tenure, Georgia holds $10 million in Israel Bonds, the most they have held since legislation was passed allowing the state to purchase them. The investment indicates that the relationship between Georgia and Israel goes beyond joint exploration of emerging technology, trade, economic development and tourism to include being a direct stakeholder in the country and its well-being.”
Chuck Berk, the Atlanta chairman of Israel Bonds, set the tone: “Under the governor’s leadership, the connection between Georgia and Israel has gotten demonstratively stronger. In 2014, Georgia’s exports to Israel totaled $250.8 million, a 59.6 percent increase over 2013, and Georgia’s imports from Israel totaled more than $432.1 million, a 15.75 percent increase from 2013, making Georgia Israel’s 21st-largest import market in the world.”
Berk contrasted Israel’s rock-solid economy with others. “As countries like Greece struggle to repay their debt, Israel Bonds have never missed a payment of principal or interest on a single issue since 1951.”
On a personal level, Berk stressed the practicality of bonds as gifts and the importance of renewing the bonds upon expiration, as he does.
Deal praised his relationship with Attorney General Sam Olens, the state’s highest-ranking Jewish elected official ever, joking, “But that doesn’t mean I will approve everything in his budget.”
Deal said that supporting Israel is “just the right thing to do as one of our strongest allies and trading partners. The relationship is mutual.”
Having led trade missions to Israel as recently as last year, Deal boasted about the success of Caesarstone, a revolutionary Israeli manufacturer of luxury quartz surfaces (counter tops) that settled in Richmond Hill. He then announced the company’s expansion, adding 130 jobs.
Deal lightheartedly mentioned that Israel Bonds are often rated AAA, higher than Georgia’s. “Bonds in the longer term are the best route for major improvements: infrastructure, colleges, roads. Quality bonds are what count.”
Deal closed his comments to yet another standing ovation.