MOUNTAIN VIEW — Gov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the heart of the Silicon Valley on Wednesday and signed a deal that would promote trade and joint research between the Jewish state and California.
The ceremony at the Computer History Museum was the latest international agreement signed by Brown, who led a trade mission to China last year and plans to take a delegation to Mexico this summer.
The governor, a three-time failed presidential candidate who has said he will not be a candidate in 2016, said he will continue to forge accords with international leaders as an end-run around partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.
“California and Israel will build on their respective strengths in research and technology to confront critical problems we both face, such as water scarcity, cybersecurity and climate change,” Brown said.
Netanyahu hailed California’s role as an innovator in a number of different fields, and called for a nonstop flight from the Bay Area to Tel Aviv to create “an explosion of innovation.”
Israel is home to more NASDAQ companies than any country outside of the United States, including many of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, and technology was a major focus of the prime minister’s visit.
The museum is surrounded by business parks, most of are occupied by Google, which has its headquarters less than a mile away.
The controversial white luxury buses that shuttle Google employees from San Francisco and other Bay Area cities circle around the streets, making way for workers cruising around on dozens of company-provided bikes, which are painted in Google rainbow colors. Outside the museum, protesters with Palestinian flags gathered hours before Netanyahu’s arrival. Just behind them, a group of the prime minister’s supporters huddled under an Israeli banner.
After meeting with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday, Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with some of the region’s top CEOs Wednesday, including tours of Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus and a meeting with Jan Koum, CEO of WhatsApp, which was just acquired by Facebook for $19 billion.
Brown, meanwhile, made a point of focusing on the state drought, which is costing California farmers billions of dollars and is becoming a growing political issue in the state.
“We have a long way to go,” Brown said of the state’s water conservation efforts. “Israel has demonstrated how efficient a country can be,” Brown said.
Netanyahu noted that because of advanced recycling, desalination and other conservation efforts, “Israel does not have a water problem” despite its situation in an arid part of the world. California doesn’t need to have a water problem. By working together we can overcome this.”
Netanyahu also made his first comments about his country’s seizure of an Iranian ship loaded with weapons that Israeli officials say was headed for the Palestinian Territories.
“This shows the true face of Iran,” he said. “It has not changed one iota. This regime must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons capability.”