As terrorist group Hamas continues to escalate rocket attacks from Gaza, Governor Kay Ivey says Alabama is standing firmly with Israel.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland on Wednesday warned the worsening violent conflict could move “towards a full-scale war.”
Militants in Gaza have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since Monday, killing or injuring hundreds of civilians. While Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system has intercepted many, some rocket attacks are still getting through. Approximately 130 rockets hit Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, even forcing Israel’s main international airport to close.
The violence comes as the Alabama Department of Commerce conducted a long-scheduled virtual trade mission with Israel that began on Monday and concluded Wednesday. The Department is set to conduct an in-person trade mission to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem later this year.
“At a time when businesses face continued challenges globally and domestically, we are looking to deepen and strengthen ties with our long-term ally, Israel, which is a logical choice for a virtual trade mission,” explained Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield earlier this year.
“We have found that virtual events leading up to an in-person trade mission can be very beneficial in that they allow companies to make initial contacts, learn more about the market to be visited and pave the way for a more productive trip,” added Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade for the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Alabama and Israel are established trading partners. Alabama’s exports to Israel in 2020 totaled $49 million, an increase of nearly 27% from 2019, per the Department of Commerce.
Private sector partners in Alabama have also put an emphasis on greater trade relations with Israel in recent years, as discussed in the 2019 “Doing Business with Israel: Opportunities for Alabama-Israel Technology Partnerships” forum in Birmingham. Key target sectors for U.S. exports to Israel include safety and security, health care, information and communication technologies, and defense.
In February, Governor Ivey also hosted newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan for a visit at the Alabama State Capitol. Erdan’s Alabama trip was his first official trip to the United States. He also visited with Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, as well as making stops at Montgomery’s Rosa Parks Museum and Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“I had the distinct honor of hosting Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the US. He is on a learning tour and will visit many of AL’s historic sites. As a Jew whose family was lost in the Holocaust, he is focused on civil rights of all people. Shalom, Mr. Ambassador!” Ivey tweeted in February. “I told him my trip to Israel several years ago was most memorable, and my Christmas and Easter celebrations have more meaning than ever. I hope he joins us again very soon.”
On Wednesday, Ivey tweeted her continued support for Israel.
Alabama stands with Israel! ??
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) May 12, 2021
Gina Maiola, spokesperson for Ivey, reiterated the governor’s support for Israel in a statement to Yellowhammer News.
“Governor Ivey and the state of Alabama have long been friends to Israel. Recently, the governor hosted Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, in her office,” Maiola outlined. “His visit to Alabama was part of his tour of the southeastern United States, which was focused on civil rights. Ambassador Erdan and Governor Ivey had a great, free-flowing conversation.”
“Alabama was the first state in the country to recognize Israel as a country, and the governor has long been a supporter,” she noted. “In fact, she has been to Israel twice with her church, and she says that her visits were certainly eye opening, saying that being there helps connect the dots to stories she reads in the Bible.”
The spokesperson concluded, “Sure, she is not at the State Department or working in foreign affairs, but it is appropriate with Alabama’s longstanding relationship with Israel that she reaffirmed our position as an ally and friend. As Governor Ivey said this morning, Alabama stands with Israel.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn