Celebrating someone else’s success
Hebrew media review

Celebrating someone else’s success

Mobileye's buyout by Intel wins plaudits of pundits and politicians, while Haaretz wrings hands over an attack in Jerusalem

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Mobileye provides technology in the area of software algorithms that could enable autonomous cars. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Mobileye provides technology in the area of software algorithms that could enable autonomous cars. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Hebrew press is ecstatic Tuesday morning after Israeli company Mobileye sold to tech giant Intel for a whopping $15.3 billion, the largest tech exit in Israeli corporate history. The reason for Intel’s big buy is Mobileye’s self-driving car technology, which earns the company the plaudits of the local media.

For Yedioth Ahronoth, the big issue is the breakdown of the booty among Mobileye employees. The two founders get $1 billion apiece, and their vice president takes home $11.3 million, while the deputy CEO gets a paltry $6.85 million. The more veteran employees “will become millionaires” from their cut of the $340 million divided between the staff. But the newcomers, according to the paper, will have to be satisfied with a relatively paltry “few hundred thousand shekels.”

“By my estimation,” writes Yossi Vardi, “the father of Israeli start-ups,” — as Yedioth Ahronoth brands him in his Page 3 column — “we will continue to see more hi-tech companies being sold to big companies. I have no doubt that in the short term there will be a whole industry developing here connected to smart cars — there are today 400 start-ups in Israel that deal with this field.” The fact that the parent companies keep their Israeli subsidiaries here “is wise, and this will help the development of local industry,” he writes. “On the other hand, Israel needs to invest not just in children with five [course] units of mathematics — for the hi-tech industry to blossom it needs to place emphasis on children who are taking three courses.”

Haaretz‘s financial pages break down the particulars of the deal, but the paper’s analyst Ami Ginzburg uses his column to rap Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for celebrating the sale as a boon for Israel. He acknowledges that Israel will get a bump in tax earnings and draw some new employees to the country with its future cooperation with Intel, “but what else?” The remainder of Ginzburg’s full-page analysis of Mobileye’s sale is a rambling speculation whose ultimate conclusion is a prognosticator’s equivalent of a shrug.

“Will Mobileye under Intel turn into a giant company and realize its great potential in the developing world of autonomous and semi-autonomous cars? Will it become a company that brings in earnings of billions of dollars a year and employs thousands of workers?” he asks. “Only the future will tell.”

He warns that not every buyout of an Israeli tech company has led to great success, citing Mercury Interactive’s acquisition by Hewlett Packard in 2006 and the closing of operations in Israel last year. “Is a similar fate expected with Mobileye? We can hope not,” he says.

The bottom line for Israel Hayom is that the deal — which is mentioned on the front page — is expected to rake in around $4 billion in taxes for the Israeli government, “and bring a reduction of taxes” for the rest of us schlubs. Unlike the other papers, the free pro-Netanyahu daily is sure to mention that the prime minister and president expressed their pride in the success of an Israeli company.

As one might expect from a hypernationalist publication like Israel Hayom, its op-ed writer Hezi Sternlicht regurgitate’s Netanyahu’s celebration of Mobileye’s success as that of the state. His headline calls the sale “A Mark of Honor for Start-up Nation,” and he says that if Israel is destined to “continue to see giant exits for Israeli companies, that don’t grow into ‘the next Teva’ [the Israeli pharmaceutical giant], it’s apparently not such a terrible fate.”

The fact that Intel is convinced “that the way for it to grow and look ahead needs to be done through buying an innovative product of the Israeli brain” is “a certificate of honor, and it serves the Israeli economy by strengthening the brand value of the Start-up Nation,” he writes.

Aside from the Mobileye exit, Haaretz also engages in rampant speculation in the aftermath of Monday’s terror attack in Jerusalem, the first in a dog’s age.

“The terror attack in Jerusalem may augur the beginning of a new wave of violence around the Temple Mount,” reads the headline on Nir Hasson’s analysis. Valid point, but at the same time, it might not. He says that a series of recent incidents connected to the Temple Mount “raise concerns” of renewed Palestinian violence. But he doesn’t say who else is concerned besides himself and one analyst he spoke to.

He points to a constellation of recent Israeli actions regarding the Temple Mount — from the inauguration of a visitor’s path at the Ophel that irked Palestinians, to the conviction last month of a Palestinian woman who assaulted an Israeli MK at the contested holy site, and the growing number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount — which, “as in the past, the Palestinians now connect between various incidents, that point, as far as they’re concerned, to a growing threat to the agreements regarding the Temple Mount, even if nobody on the Israeli side intends it.”

Israeli officials are ignoring the building tensions, he says, which “are growing a month before Passover (the most important holiday for Temple activists), and two and a half months before celebrations for the 50th anniversary of uniting the city, and with the background of the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem.” The latter, it should be noted, is currently speculative at best.

He then drags his personal political opinions into his unchecked speculation. Former US secretary of state John Kerry came to the rescue twice in recent years to calm tensions around the Temple Mount. “Without a responsible adult in Washington, and with many irresponsible adults in Jerusalem, there’s certainly cause for concern,” he says.

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