The FINANCIAL — “A new wave of Israeli investments in Georgia has already begun,” Itsik Moshe, President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, told The FINANCIAL. “Pre-crisis investments of 300 million will be doubled very soon. I would say that the return of Jewish investments to Eastern Europe will begin from Tbilisi,” Mr. Moshe stated.
“Relations between Georgia and Israel with the geopolitical aspect symbolize two sides of one coin. Georgian and Jewish attitudes toward one another have an impact on citizens of both countries. I would say that this process is going well. The relationship has not yet reached its maximum potential. Not even ten 10 percent of the potential has been realized.”
Q. The arrest of Israeli businessmen in Georgia caused discontent in Israel’s business sector. How long will it take to restore confidence between the two countries?
A. This problem has been left in the past. No crack was made in people’s confidence as a result of the incident. Moreover, four official visits of Georgian business delegations to Israel have been planned. Mikheil Saakashvili pardoned the Israeli businessmen jailed in Georgia. So the issue has been resolved.
Q. How likely are future investments from Jewish businessmen in Georgia? How many business projects have failed recently?
A. The failure of investment projects is not exactly related to the situation around Jewish businessmen. In the last three years the world’s economy has suffered greatly. And it has not even recovered yet. Discussing Jewish investments out of this context is not right.
Israel has invested 10 billion USD in Eastern Europe. The next stop for this investment should have been Georgia. The process was stopped because Israeli money has been frozen in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately there is little likelihood of a revival in the near future.
The main Israeli investments are being implemented by private entities in Georgia. Israeli companies are interested in Georgian agriculture, tourism, financial sector, trade, logistics and real estate.
Q. Israel has blacklisted Georgia, which means that Georgia is a dangerous place for Israeli tourists. How did this fact impact on the two country’s tourism relations?
A. Tourism is growing at an annual rate of 55 percent. The Chamber of Business has been involved in the tourism sector over the years. The Chamber encourages bilateral tourism, brings journalists and TV channels, and advertises tourism facilities in both countries. Some people say that tourism activity is determined by the Jewish people who left Georgia and went to Israel. I would like to compare Georgia to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In the 90s the same number of Jewish people left these countries, as in Georgia. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are financially interesting countries for Israel in the tourism industry. Israel has good relationships with these countries as well, but there is only one flight from Israel to Kazakhstan and four flights to Baku every month. As for Georgia, there are 30 flights from Israel a month. I believe that the number of flights will have reached 50 by 2014.
This is a good example of how tourism relationships are developing between Georgia and Israel. This is a result of Georgia’s well planned activities and PR.
Q. What is the role of Georgian Jews in terms of Israel’s politics towards Georgia?
A. I have a very strong position on the issue. Georgian Jews are not integrated into Israeli society. They could never determine anything in the relations between Georgia and Israel after their return to Israel. We must do everything to make the historical process between the two countries develop into deep and beneficial relations.