Today, midway through an eight-day economic development mission to Israel and Jordan, Governor Martin O'Malley met with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the president's residence in Jerusalem. During the hour-long meeting, the discussion focused on Maryland and the State's economy, entrepreneurship and the Middle East peace process. Later in the day, Governor O'Malley met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss U.S.-Israeli relations, as well as the economic ties between Israel and Maryland, which both have strong clusters in defense, cybersecurity, healthcare and biotechnology.
"Meeting with President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu was a tremendous honor," said Governor O'Malley. "Their tireless dedication to peace for Israel and the entire region is an inspiration not just for the citizens here, but the world over. We look forward to strengthening the deep and historic relationship between Maryland and Israel and growing as partners in peace and prosperity."
The first person to serve terms as both Prime Minister and President of Israel, President Peres began his career in 1947, serving in the Haganah, the predecessor to the Israel Defense Force. In 1953, at the age of 29, Peres was appointed Director General of the Defense Ministry and, over six years, established Israel's electronic aircraft industries and the country's nuclear program. Peres was elected to Israel's legislature, the Knesset, at age 36 and, over the next 50 years, twice served as Prime Minister and once as Acting Prime Minister. In 1994, he won the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has twice held the office of prime minister, worked as a business consultant to Israeli high-tech companies after leaving office in 1999 and before returning to politics in 2002. He is the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the establishment of the state. He is also an author and a leading voice on combating global terrorism. Governor O'Malley met Netanyahu during a previous trade mission to Israel in 2008.
Also today, Governor O'Malley met with Major General Amos Gilad, one of the top officials of Israel's Ministry of Defense who is Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs and Chairman of Security Relations with Regional and Strategic Partners. Governor O'Malley and General Gilad discussed the military, intelligence and security assets in Maryland and the major defense and foreign policy issues facing Israel.
Governor O'Malley also traveled to Ashdod to tour the headquarters of ELTA Systems Ltd., the world's 4th-largest radar company. A subsidiary of Israeli Aerospace Industries Ltd., ELTA developed the radar used in the Iron Dome missile defense system that was instrumental in protecting Israeli towns and cities in the Gaza Strip during the conflict with Hamas in the fall. Governor O'Malley discussed with ELTA executives the company's plans for expansion in the U.S. market and the recent success of the Iron Dome system. ELTA North America opened its U.S. headquarters in Howard County last summer with plans to hire 100 employees.
"We are honored and excited in Maryland to be the U.S. home of ELTA," Governor O'Malley said. "Israel and Maryland share a belief in innovating, educating, and make the right choices and smart investments that lead to a safer world. We look forward to ELTA's growth in Maryland and further collaborating with Israeli companies in life sciences, cyber and homeland security, and aerospace and defense."
"It is an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to host the honorable Governor O'Malley at ELTA Systems Ltd.," said Nissim Hadas, IAI Executive Vice President and ELTA President. "ELTA North America will serve as the first line of our U.S. customer support. With the technical and manufacturing expertise of our combat tested and operationally fielded systems, we plan to create jobs and grow our market share in the challenging and dynamic U.S. market. I look forward to seeing ELTA North America mature into a successful business that brings pride to the State of Maryland."