JERUSALEM--Oded Rose, CEO of the Tel Aviv-based Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, will be closely watching President Donald Trump's May 22-23 visit to Israel, which he hopes will set an even more positive tone for already thriving business ties between the two allies.
Israel has the third-largest foreign presence on Wall Street, after China and Canada, with about 70 Israeli companies, many listed on the Nasdaq, traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bilaterial U.S.-Israel trade reached $40 billion in 2016, according to Rose.
Although it is "too soon" to gauge the Trump administration's eventual impact on Israeli companies, businesses and the Israeli stock market, Israelis are concerned about everything from U.S tax reform to visas, Rose said.
"There's talk about U.S.-based companies having to use local goods and services for the purposes of tax deduction, so that would affect companies based outside the U.S," Rose said, adding that the imposition of tariffs on imports could spur additional Israeli and other foreign companies to open U.S.-based subsidiaries.
If the Trump administration increases national security spending, it could boost three of Israel's strongest sectors: defense, security and cyber, Rose said. But visa restrictions could greatly reduce the ability of Israeli experts to advise American agencies and private companies.
Yossi Yaacoby, director of Watec, the innovation center of Mekorot, Israel's national water company, said his sector hasn't yet felt any impact from the new U.S. government.
If Trump makes good on his promise to improve America's infrastructure by replacing decades-only pipes and dams and building desalination plants, Israel's water-tech industries have the expertise and experience to do this work, Yaacoby said, "but nothing is happening yet on the ground."
Visa restrictions probably won't have a strong effect on the "dozens" of Israeli water-related companies operating in the U.S. "because most have U.S.-based subsidiaries or agents and distributors or are engaged joint ventures," Yaacoby noted.
Unlike many Israeli business people, Sarah Nadav, CEO of Civilize, a fin-tech start-up that utilizes the laws of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help protect Americans from unscrupulous debt collectors, said she is already feeling the impact of the new administration's policies. "The CFPB has done an outstanding job of holding banks and lenders accountable. Civilize offers an innovative platform that would have made it easier for people to know their rights and protect themselves," Nadav said. "Then Trump issued an executive order to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and to close the CFPB."
Even if the CFPB is not closed, "it is being gutted from the inside with budget cuts and staffing changes," Nadav said. "For me, this was a huge blow. Civilize has been my life work and with the stroke of a pen, I saw that my start-up was dead. We were in the middle of raising funds, but it would be impossible to get an investor to take a risk on a company based on regulations that were being repealed.
"We are on hold until further notice," Nadav said.
Michele Chabin, a journalist based in Jerusalem, has been reporting on Israelis and Palestinians for USA Today, Religion News Service and many other publications for nearly three decades.