Seeking deeper tech ties, German state to open office in Israel

North Rhine-Westphalia hub in Tel Aviv will be state’s first ever venture of its kind

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

North Rhine-Westphalia leader Armin Laschet (left) is welcomed to Jerusalem by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 2018 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
North Rhine-Westphalia leader Armin Laschet (left) is welcomed to Jerusalem by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 2018 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Germany’s most populous state is set to open a representative office in Israel, the state’s minister-president, Armin Laschet, announced this week during a visit to Jerusalem.

Located in Tel Aviv, the planned North Rhine-Westphalia representative office will be the state’s first ever venture of that type.

The center is planned to become a consulate of sorts to promote bilateral economic ties, as well as develop relations in education, research and cultural activities, Laschet’s office said in a press release.

“After Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv is the most innovative start-up region in the world,” Laschet said. “Science and economy are working hand in hand here.”

He cited artificial intelligence and medical applications of big data as two fields the state was interested in.

While North Rhine-Westphalia doesn’t have any similar offices anywhere in the world, a number of federal states in Germany, the US and elsewhere have agreements and offices dedicated to expanding ties with Israel.

Located in northwest Germany bordering The Netherlands, North Rhine-Westphalia has a population of about 18 million and is considered the country’s economic center.

Fireworks exploding over the Rhine River during a New Year’s party in Cologne, Germany, January 1, 2014. (Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israeli trade with the state, which is home to Cologne, Bonn and Dusseldorf, is about 1 billion euros a year.

Twenty-eight cities in North Rhine-Westphalia have partnerships with Israeli municipalities.

“Israel has good relations with the state in a range of areas including youth exchanges and Holocaust education,” the prime minister’s office said.

In Israel, Laschet visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and met with Netanyahu.

The two discussed regional threats, Iran and security, according to Netanyahu’s office.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out Israel’s contribution to Europe’s security and said that Israel has thwarted dozens of terrorist attacks on the continent’s soil,” a PMO statement said.

Laschet, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU party, was also set to meet President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

“No other state [in Germany] has so close, continuous and friendly relations with Israel as North Rhine-Westphalia does,” Laschet said Wednesday. “I want to continue and deepen this tradition.”

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