Few, if any, national economies escaped 2020 with a clean bill of health, and Israel was no exception. As per the Central Bureau of Statistics, the country’s economy contracted by 2.4% across the year, the most severe decline since the state was established in 1948. It is a testament to the unprecedented nature of the past year that Israel’s performance can be considered a relative success story – the average across the OECD countries was a 5.5% decline.
Though economically speaking Israel has fared comparatively well, more generally the region’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is a mixed story. When the first wave of the pandemic hit, Israel was still being overseen by a caretaker government following the inconclusive result of the legislative election in March 2020. A state of emergency was declared and legally enforceable restrictions were introduced, preventing citizens from leaving their homes except for a short list of specified reasons. To ease the economic strain, the government introduced a $22bn economic rescue package to bolster the healthcare system, assist the unemployed and support struggling businesses. These restrictions proved largely effective and by the end of May most restrictions had been lifted, allowing most Israelis to enjoy a relatively free early summer. Continue reading “Israel focus: Land of milk and honey”
Thriving in the face of adversity as politics and security play an integral part in everyday life is a default position for Israel. The data backs this up: recent OECD reports describe Israel as stable with strong economic growth: annual GDP has consistently risen by three to four percent over recent years to reach nearly $400bn in 2019. This, despite a protracted leadership battle taking place with two general elections in six months bringing the nation no closer to a conclusive result.
Michael Barnea, managing partner of Barnea, Jaffa, Lande & Co, develops the point: ‘The environment is surprisingly robust considering the political instability that we’ve experienced for a considerable time. Investment, both from overseas into Israel and in the local market, is extremely strong and gives every appearance of being confident in the future.’ Continue reading “Israel: Anti-fragile”
Every Thursday at 6pm, Yair Geva, co-head of Herzog Fox & Neeman (HFN)’s high-tech department, drinks a beer on the rooftop of a client’s office in central Tel Aviv. The weekly drink, which started seven years ago when he returned to Israel from New York, is a routine that is borne out of professional commitment and friendship. In the start-up and high-tech world, the two often go hand in hand.
‘We share a long journey with our clients and we are often with them from day one,’ Geva says. ‘The only way to keep in touch with this very vibrant dynamic ecosystem is to hang out with friends, clients and hear the news.’ Continue reading “In the game – Israeli law firms embrace risks to secure the tech icons of tomorrow”
Israel’s regional tensions contrast with optimistic hopes for foreign investment and a burgeoning economy. While war still rages over the border in nearby Syria, Israel’s start-up and hi-tech sector is flourishing. In addition, its nascent natural gas industry finally looks primed for substantial development.
Life is good in Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv, says Barry Levenfeld, a partner at Yigal Arnon & Co: ‘Economically and politically, Israel remains stable, while our neighbours are more dangerous by the minute. Sitting here on the 47th floor in Tel Aviv, looking across the Mediterranean and with all the restaurants and coffee houses below, you just wouldn’t know that any of this was going on.’ Continue reading “Value range – as the money pours in, can Israel takes its high-growth stars global?”
Shimon Peres, the 91-year-old former Israeli president, may not be the most obvious social media fanatic. Yet in 2014 he opened an account on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Facebook, expressing his desire to interact directly with the Chinese people, including its younger generation. The nonagenarian quickly received over 50 million ‘likes’ on his Weibo page.
This symbolises a wider cultural and economic shift. For decades, Israel’s political elite has made much of the nation’s natural affinity with the US and the influential Jewish community there. That umbilical cord to the world’s most powerful nation that has fertilised Israel’s tech and start-up community remains intact. But in recent years, as western pressure and sanctions have been exerted on Israel over its conflict with Palestine, it has turned its sights to the East, where Asian jurisdictions have taken a less judgemental line on its political and military stance.
Continue reading “Trading Places – Israel’s tech-heavy legal market widens its global reach”
Barry Levenfeld is a regular visitor to Silicon Valley. The technology and life sciences specialist at Israeli firm Yigal Arnon & Co has to fly from Tel Aviv to San Francisco, via New Jersey or Los Angeles. Currently the journey takes around 20 hours.
However, he hopes that an online petition to establish a direct flight between Tel Aviv and San Francisco will lead to a more civilised journey. The proposed 14.5-hour flight will usher Israeli high-flyers straight into the growth company and venture capital centre of the world.
Continue reading “Scale-up nation – chasing Israel’s high growth clients”
In a Tel Aviv conference in June this year, DLA Piper, White & Case, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Weil, Gotshal & Manges will rub shoulders with Israel’s legal elite in discussing the liberalisation and internationalisation of the country’s legal market. The conference, hosted by the Tel Aviv District Israel Bar Association and legal marketing and consulting company Robus, highlights the growing presence of international law firms in Israel. And while this may bear all the hallmarks of another instance of empire building by international advisers, the reality is actually a little more nuanced.
Israel may have only just liberalised its legal market to allow foreign entrants – through an order passed by the Israeli finance minister in August 2012 – but many firms have long been present in the jurisdiction unofficially. Regardless of whether the liberalisation process will fundamentally alter the state of the market or not, there is concern about its effect on the domestic Bar, which is already saturated by highly qualified Israeli lawyers, including immigrants who previously practised overseas.
Continue reading “Israel – New Heights”
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s ‘man on the ground’ in Tel Aviv, Adir Waldman, had a relatively typical New England upbringing. Having grown up in Fairfield, Connecticut, the academically gifted Waldman studied at nearby Yale University, before returning two years later to attend Yale Law School, where he became senior editor of The Yale Law Journal.
In between, Waldman took the unusual step of serving in the Israeli army for 18 months. ‘I had been accepted for law school and I knew that I didn’t want to go directly. Thankfully, Yale has a policy of actively encouraging students to take a year or two off to do interesting things,’ he says. The army was a positive experience and serves him well in his current position. ‘I certainly know most of my Hebrew from the army and I probably feel more at home here as a result,’ he comments. Continue reading “Israel – Peak performance”
Israel has the highest number of lawyers per capita of any country in the world – one lawyer for every 166 people – and so far it has managed to keep them all busy. For a country with a population of 7.3 million, a legal profession boasting 44,000 participants is quite some feat (the UK has 150,000).
In the past decade many of the top Israeli firms have doubled in size and have regularly been outperforming the wider market. The economy has flourished, international business has taken off and law firms have reaped the rewards. Now they just have to keep up the momentum. Continue reading “A hive of activity”