Naftali Bennett, Minister of Economy and the first Israeli Cabinet member to visit Indonesia in more than a dozen years, signed an historic trade agreement there, which he expects will inject a trillion dollars into the world economy.

Bennett, who is also chairman of the Jewish Home party and a reserve major in the Israel Defense Forces, was representing Israel at the recent World Trade Organization conference in Bali. Shimon Peres had visited Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, in 2000 as Israel’s minister of regional cooperation.

Bennett’s trip was part and parcel of “an effort on the political, economic and international diplomatic fronts,” which also included visits to the US and Australia.

As minister of the economy, he has been stressing an interest in diversifying economic ties.

“We promoted trade agreements with surprising countries that I can’t publicize yet,” he posted on his Facebook page. “We promoted cooperation agreements in research and development with other countries in the East, as I had promised, so that in the future, we will not be so dependent on the European Union.”

“I later gave a speech before the 157 trade ministers, including those from Muslim and Arab states with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties. We didn’t notice anyone walk out.”

In fact, he received enthusiastic applause.

“A couple of years ago, our region entered a new era of turbulence,” which could last for decades, he told the WTO audience.

Israel is the “one place that has withstood the storm,” he continued. It has become the “lighthouse” of the region because of its solid foundations: a “strong economy,” a “flourishing democracy,” and “Jewish roots that date back 3,800 years.”

A lighthouse, however, “also projects light,” and it is therefore important that Israel’s economy not only do well, but also do good, he said, stressing the need to “break down barriers” for the sake of global prosperity.

“An open market is in all our interests,” he stated. “It creates peace and makes the world a better place.”

Discussing Israel’s “innovative…lighthouse technology,” he focused on the areas of agriculture and food security, water, cyber-security, medical advancements and alternative energy.

“I anxiously await the day I can sit down and sign free-trade agreements with all of Israel’s neighbors, as well as other Arab and Muslim states in the wider region,” he stated.

On his Facebook page, he posted:

“In between, I got a chance to light on the eighth night of Hanukkah in Indonesia. Lighting a candle as a Jew in a Muslim country was a very exciting experience for me. Who knows when the last Jews lit Chanukah candles here before me…”

Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer for United with Israel
Date: Dec. 16, 2013