ATHENS – Worries among Israeli businessmen about the government’s plan to control the courts is being used by Greece to reach out to them to set up shop and attract them with a range of benefits.
Greek ministers and diplomats, as well as other senior government officials, held several meetings recently with Israeli entrepreneurs in an attempt to convince them to relocate, Israel’s Keshet Channel 12 news reported.
The report said that Greek officials made presentations offering generous relocation packages for the Israeli executives, including tax breaks, fast-tracked citizenship, and the construction of special neighborhoods with schools and offices for them and their families.
The reach-out was especially to those in the high-tech industry who are anxious about interference in the judiciary they said will weaken democracy, critics saying it was designed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent being removed during his corruption trial.
Netanyahu wants control over the appointment of judges, including High Court justices and to essentially eliminate the judiciary’s power to review and affect legislation to shield himself.
There is anxiety in Israel’s business community that Israel is becoming more autocratic and leaning away from democracy as Netanyahu seeks to consolidate power in his his hands.
Channel 12 said a statement from the Greek embassy that did not deny the substance of the report, saying: “Advancing opportunities to raise internal capital in a country is a common practice, as it is in other countries. Greece has the right to do so in a broad range of areas.”
Ori Hadomi, the CEO of Mazor Robotics, confirmed to the channel the existence of talks between senior Israeli tech executives and European countries regarding relocations, noted The Times of Israel.
“The proposal came from countries friendly to Israel that sadly recognized an opportunity,” he said, though he refused to comment on which countries were involved. “I can confirm they are European countries that are seeking engines of growth and are interested in quality manpower. They are recognizing a process whereby there will be an exodus from Israel of people seeking to work elsewhere. They want to be prepared,” he added.
Senior Treasury officials warned Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that the government’s proposed judicial overhaul could stunt the country’s growth, resulting in a severe loss of tax revenue and do “very significant harm” to the economy, the paper said of the danger.
They noted that due to the structure of the Israeli economy, the negative impact on long-term growth may manifest quickly, particularly in the tech sector, because of companies’ cross-border operations and their reliance on international funding and skilled workers who may leave the country.
The tech industry contributes 17 percent of Israel’s revenues, more than 50 percent of exports and about 25 percent of payroll taxes. In 2022, foreign capital investments in Israeli high-tech amounted to about $12 billion (not including exits) the paper’s story also added.