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    An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks at an elections billboards of the Blue and White party leaders, from left to right, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi, alongside a panel on the right showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by extreme right politicians, from the left, Itamar Ben Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Michael Ben Ari in Bnei Brak, Israel, Saturday, March 16, 2019. Hebrew reads on the left billboard The nation of Israel lives and on the right billboard Kahana Lives in a reference to a banned ultranationalist party in the 1994.

    Supporting 'Israel's Innovative Economy' is 'Goal of Blue & White'- Candidate

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    Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has cast his vote in Israel's general election. Gantz's political coalition is the main rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. Sputnik discussed the vote with Izhar Shay, a Blue and White political alliance Knesset candidate as well as a venture capital investor and IT entrepreneur.

    Sputnik: The co-chairman of the Blue and White political alliance Yair Lapid has met with French president Emmanuel Macron; now they've apparently discussed regional issues as well as the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. What do you make of the timing of that meeting, and in your view what was Mr. Macron's aim in meeting with Mr. Lapid?

    Izhar Shay: The timing of that meeting was predetermined for quite some time now, it was not directed specifically to various issues that relate to the Israeli elections. Israeli leaders do make a point to meet as frequently as possible with international leaders, European leaders, being a very significant, powerful influence on Israeli politics and state affairs. In that regard, it was an important meeting between our party leader, Mr. Yair Lapid, and the French leader Macron, and they discussed, as you mentioned, a number of issues, international issues that relate specifically to the state of Israel and our international affairs in the Middle East.

    READ MORE: Israeli Opposition 'Quite Desperately' Fought Netanyahu — Likud Member

    Sputnik: What do you think it says about Europe's support for Israel?

    Izhar Shay: We've had strong political allies and strategic allies in Europe throughout the existence of the state of Israel, and looking at this from that perspective, this meeting with the French leader reinforces the fact that Israel has strong allies and does focus on Europe as one of its most significant allies throughout the world, along with our very strong ties with United States, with Russia, with many other countries around the world. Israel does see a significant presence and a significant endorsement of world leaders for our various political interests and our various strategic interest in this region, this is not a political issue. The fact that we are having those relationships and developing those international affairs with the world leaders, this is for us here in Israel a strong strategic interest regardless of the party, regardless of politics and elections.

    Sputnik: You personally have recently joined the Israel Resilience party, what compelled you to take up politics?

    Izhar Shay: I come from the world of innovation, hi-tech, entrepreneurship, and in recent years the world of investment in hi-tech. I came from a very nice and cozy comfort zone but I believe that one has to look at one's possible influence, possible contribution back to the community, back to my country, frankly, and I saw this as an opportunity to bring everything that I've accumulated throughout my career in terms of experience, in terms of connections and philosophy as well, and bring everything to bear within a political party which I strongly believe in, and whose leaders are to me the new kind of leadership this country needs. To me this is a very important opportunity to exert my influence, and to bring my experience to bear, this is the reason why I am here.

    Sputnik: How crucial is this vote for a business in Israel in general and for your business in particular?

    Izhar Shay: Israel has developed in significant ways over the last two decades. We have become open to international investors and many international global companies have placed their offices, either R&D or business offices, in Israel. We count today about 400 international companies in this country which are doing significant business or development here. We have attracted the top international investors in innovation, in hi-tech, biotech, cleantech and so on, into this country and so the economy here has flourished thanks to our international commitments, ties and open economy. We have seen significant growth in terms of foreign investment, in terms of local entrepreneurial ventures, and in terms of growing an international footprint throughout our innovative businesses. To that extent, the Israeli economy is one of the leading forces in the world of innovation, as the benchmark and international indicators also prove, we are nation number two [in terms of placing] public companies on the US stock exchanges. Our technology is integrated in various leading-edge technology fronts, such as cybersecurity, financial technology and so on. This is a small piece of geography but a very important piece of the international technology puzzle, and we definitely plan to continue to reinforce this in the foreseeable future.

    READ MORE: Likud Foreign Affairs Chief Reveals Three Main Challenges Israel Faces

    Sputnik: It's very interesting that Mr. Gantz also has experience in tech, so you're not the only tech executive to join the party. What is your vision for the future of Israel and startups following the elections?

    Izhar Shay: Thank you for noting this, because we see innovation and we actually termed this as the innovative economy that we are pursuing. We believe that it is a strategic asset of this country and it is a national goal of our government, which hopefully will be formed in the next few weeks. It is our national goal to reinforce the Israeli innovative technology and innovative economy. We see this not only as a platform to grow the hi-tech, biotech and cleantech economy, we also see this as a platform to open our fronts to more and more opportunities, job opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, and so on, to close the gaps between the [center and the] periphery, with the socio-economically challenged, the people who come from challenged backgrounds, and to integrate them into the new economies that we're developing here, so that's one additional significant foundation of our economical philosophy within this party.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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