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Past Event

Israel-U.S. Business Forum

Council on Foreign Relations

58 East 68th Street (at Park Avenue)
New York, NY 10065

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Israeli and U.S. business leaders, investors, and academic experts will convene for debates on Israeli innovative solutions to global challenges and to share potential opportunities for investment, partnership, and joint research initiatives. The event will take place at the Harold Pratt House, home of Foreign Affairs and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Photos from the event can be found here.

Video of the event can be found here.


Presiding: Josh Kram, Director, Turkey & Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Idit Harel, CEO & Founder, Globaloria
Adam Shwartz, Director, Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute

Israel's competitive economy, skilled workforce, and innovation potential create a unique ecosystem that delivers solutions anticipating tomorrow's challenges. The United States and Israel can open a new chapter in their long-lasting partnership by exploring new opportunities. Both the lack of integration of one part of its population and regional instability are obstacles hampering Israel from realizing its full potential. Some business leaders and political figures have identified the benefits for Israel to become a regional integrator, using its technological expertise and economic strength to foster win-win situations. This could mean, for example, supporting peace initiatives, favoring cross-culture, language, and border partnerships, as well as encouraging innovation in a young, vibrant, and ever-changing political and economic landscape.

  • How can these developments be used to better foster an environment for economic prosperity?
  • What sort of economic ties can best facilitate the kind of diplomatic peace that has been elusive for so long?


Presiding: Albert Cho, Vice President, Strategy & Business Development, Xylem Inc.  

Yoram Kapulnik, Professor & Director, Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center
Mark Lambert, CEO, IDE Americas
Seth M. Siegel, entrepreneur & author

Food and water security are major concerns for our fast growing world. Israeli technologies, addressing the country's challenges, have overcome the barriers of its geographic location. Water and food scarcity, deficient management systems, and the consequences of climate change need to be addressed by implementing the right technologies, which Israel can bring to the world. 

  • How can the United States--and the rest of the world--benefit from Israeli technology? 
  • What kind of cooperation can be established between the United States and Israel to bring these technologies to the world?
  • How can Israeli technologies in the areas of food and water help the United States maintain efficiency while increasing sustainability? 



Presiding: Michael A. Levi, Senior Fellow, Energy & the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations

Adam G. Hedayat, Vice President, Mediterranean, Middle East & Africa, Sea NG Corporation
Simon HendersonDirector, Gulf & Energy Policy Program, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Brenda Shaffer, Visiting Researcher & Professor, Georgetown University
Nick Welch, Director, International Relations, Noble Energy

Recent gas discoveries in the Mediterranean basin and subsequent gas production will reduce Israel's historical energy dependence and facilitate power production using cleaner fuel. Furthermore, it will enable new opportunities for partnerships between Israeli and U.S. companies.

  • How will developments affect the region? Could energy be a driver of peace the way coal and steel shaped the nascent European community in the 1950s?
  • How can Israeli technology benefit the U.S. oil and gas industry and provide solutions for a safer and cleaner energy sector?


Albert Cho is Xylem's Vice President for Strategy and Business Development. He leads corporate and business strategy, market intelligence, and business development activities across the global ~$4 billion enterprise. Before Xylem, Mr. Cho worked as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary at the State Department, where he was a White House Fellow and served on Secretary Clinton's Policy Planning Staff. Previously, he was an executive at Cisco Systems, where he led innovation projects applying information technology to environmental challenges. He also worked at McKinsey & Company, where he helped found the Sustainability and Resources Practice and advised clients in the industrial, high tech, and financial sectors. He served at the United Nations with Undersecretary General Jeffrey Sachs on a global plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Mr. Cho is a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received an M.Sc in development economics and an MBA with distinction from Oxford, and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College.


Dr. Idit Harel is an accomplished Israeli-American entrepreneur, award-winning author, thought leader, and innovator in educational technology. As founder and CEO of Globaloria, she is advancing STEM and computing education worldwide by transforming education systems to better prepare the next generation for the global knowledge innovation economy. In 1995, Dr. Harel, an Internet pioneer, launched the first born-on-the-Net education brand for digital kids called MaMaMedia, which attracted over five million registered members globally and tens of millions of monthly visitors. She established global distribution and advertising partnerships, and won numerous honors, including: the Computerworld-Smithsonian Award (1999), the Internet industry's coveted Global Information Infrastructure Award (1999), and the 21st-Century Achievement Award from the Computerworld Honors Program (2002). She was honored by the Network of Educators in Science and Technology and MIT (2002) "for devotion, innovation, and imagination in science and technology on behalf of children and youth around the world." A decade later, Dr. Harel founded the World Wide Workshop, an ed-tech incubator to develop innovative learning software projects. Out of the Workshop grew Globaloria, which by 2014 has received over 15 awards including GoogleRISE Award; the Tech Award in Education; and the STEM Innovation Award in Science. Dr. Harel led a number of other global initiatives at the Workshop including Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), Schlumberger's SEED, and the Marvin Minsky Music Education Project. A research scientist and lecturer at the MIT Media Lab from 1988-1994, Dr. Harel led innovative transformations in Boston's inner city schools. Her breakthrough research led to publishing Constructionism with Seymour Papert and her book Children Designers, which received the 1991 Outstanding Book Award by the American Education Research Association (AERA). Dr. Harel was the 2010 recipient of the Jessie McCanse Award for Individual Contribution to Media Literacy. She serves on advisory boards and committees at the MIT Media Lab, Harvard Graduate School of Education, CUNY Macaulay Honors College, CU-ATLAS Institute, PBSKids Next Generation Media, MEET in Israel, TIG in Canada, and in Shanghai. Dr. Harel holds a B.A. from Tel Aviv University, an EdM and CAS from Harvard University, and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. She is a former professional dancer and competitive gymnast on Israel's national modern gymnastic team. A proud mother of three, she describes herself as a "fearless futurist" and a global "education disruptor."


Adam Hedayat is the Vice President for Mediterranean, Middle East & Africa, at Sea NG Corporation. He is a business executive with expertise and leadership roles in the Canadian and international energy sectors. For over 38 years, Mr. Hedayat has contributed to the growth of several leading energy organizations, such as SaskPower International, TransAlta Corporation of Canada, and Morrison Knudsen of the United States (currently known as the Washington Group). He is currently responsible for the business development activities of Sea NG Corporation in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa. Mr. Hedayat served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Guyana Power & Light since its inception in October 1999 to April 2003. He also served as Chairman and CEO of Northstone Power Corporation. Previously he served as Chairman of the Board of Drayton Valley Power. Mr. Hedayat has graduated in Electrical Engineering from the University of Calgary. He is a member of the Associations of professional Engineers in the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.



Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, specializing in energy matters and the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Mr. Henderson has also written three reports on East Mediterranean natural gas for the German Marshall Fund of the United States: Energy Discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean: Source for Cooperation or Fuel for Tension? The case of Israel (2012); Natural Gas Export Options for Israel and Cyprus (2013); and Natural Gas in the Palestinian Authority: The Potential of the Gaza Marine Offshore Field (2014).



Yoram Kapulnik is Director of the Agricultural Research Organization at the Volcani Center. Professor Kapulnik was born and raised in Israel. He completed his doctoral work in Soil Microbiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbioloy in Rehovot. As a Fulbright fellow he did his post-doctoral work at the University of California, Davis Department of Agronomy and Range Sciences. Professor Kapulnik's research deals with plant-microbe interactions and rhizosphere biology, focusing on the use of beneficial microorganisms to promote plant growth and productivity. He has published more than 120 articles in international scientific journals, edited three books in his field, contributed more than 30 review articles and chapters in books and holds 8 patents. He has trained more than 45 graduate students (M.Sc. & Ph.D) and over the years hosted 17 Israelis and non-Israelis post-doctorate scientists in his lab. Previously, Professor Kapulnik served as the head of the Agronomy and Natural Resources Department (1996-2000) and as the Director of the Field and Garden Crops Institute (2000-2004) at the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), the Volcani Center in Bet Dagan. He later served as the head of the Plant Sciences Institute at the ARO (2004-2008) and is currently serving as the head of the Agricultural Research Organization. During the years Professor Kapulnik served on numerous national and international research evaluation panels, chaired the board of the Israeli Gene Bank, the U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) and the natural "food security" commission. He also represented Israel in numerous international events in Israel and abroad.


Mark Lambert is chief executive officer of IDE Americas, responsible for all IDE activities in the Americas. This includes EPC, BO, and BOOT project delivery methods in the global desalination market, as well as industrial waste water treatment in select target markets, including oil and gas, power generation, and mining. He is a senior executive with extensive experience in the water and environmental industries, and has a strong track record of success in the management of successful organizations. His specialties include strategic planning and growth capital fundraising, transactional, and acquisition support services in the water, clean energy, and infrastructure markets, serving developed and developing markets. Previously, he was managing partner of Water Industry Solutions, LLC, where he was responsible for: strategic planning and marketing support to several "large cap" water equipment and service companies, resulting in sustainable revenue and earnings growth; senior management advisory and placement services for several large private equity funds targeting the water and wastewater industry globally; and $50 million in total M&A transaction value over a 2-year period. Before that, he was vice president and general manager of Industrial Services at American Water. Mr. Lambert holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Golden State University.


Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of CFR's Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies. He is an expert on domestic and international energy markets, geopolitics, and policy, climate change, and nuclear security. Dr. Levi is author of four books, most recently The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future, which explored the drivers and consequences of two emerging revolutions in American energy, and By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World (with Elizabeth Economy), which investigated Chinese efforts to secure natural resources. He is a member of the Advisory Board to Princeton University's Carbon Mitigation Initiative and a member of the Strategic Advisory Board for NewWorld Capital LLC. Before joining CFR, Dr. Levi was a science fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Levi holds an MA in physics from Princeton University and a PhD in war studies from the University of London (King’s College).


Yaron Samid is a three-time entrepreneur in the areas of consumer internet, mobile applications, and financial technology. As founder and CEO at BillGuard, Mr. Samid leads a world-class team of data scientists and UX designers pioneering the use of crowdsourcing to fight payment card fraud, grey charges, and errors costing Americans over $20 billion annually. Online Banking Report has named BillGuard one of the top banking innovations of all time, and the BillGuard iPhone App was named Top Finance App of 2013 by TechCrunch.

 Prior to BillGuard, Mr. Samid co-founded Pando Networks (acquired by MSFT) and DeskSite and led the product and marketing teams at BackWeb, Zend, and Mr. Samid is a board member at CloudLock, a cloud data security leader, and is the founder and organizer of TechAviv, the 3,000 member global Israeli startup founders club with branches in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, and Tel Aviv. Mr. Samid lectures on entrepreneurship and product management at Stanford and Columbia business schools and has been featured on CNN, Fox News, CBS Nightly News, ABC Nightly News, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.


Professor Brenda Shaffer is a specialist on energy and foreign policy, energy security polices, Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, Caspian energy and Eastern Mediterranean energy issues. She currently is a visiting professor and researcher at Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies (CERES). Professor Shaffer is on sabbatical from the University of Haifa, where she is a professor in the School of Political Science. She previously served as the Research Director of the Caspian Studies Program at Harvard University. Among her articles is Natural gas supply stability and foreign policy (Energy Policy 2013). She has published recently in Foreign Affairs the articles, Nagorno-Karabakh After Crimea, Pipeline Problems, and Gas Politics After Ukraine. Professor Shaffer is the author of a number of books, including Energy Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). She is also the author of Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity (MIT Press, 2002) and editor of Beyond the Resource Curse (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). Professor Shaffer served as an advisor to the Government of Israel’s Zemach Committee for natural gas policy. She has given U.S. Congressional testimony a number of times on issues related to energy and to the Caspian region and most recently on European energy security for the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe. Professor Shaffer's op-eds have appeared in a number of newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.


Adam Shwartz holds the Julius M. and Bernice Naiman Chair in Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He is the director of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, a partnership between Cornell University and the Technion, located on the Cornell Tech campus in New York City. He is responsible for developing the vision and executing the strategy of this startup, which represents a unique synergy between leading universities. Professor Shwartz holds the Naiman Chair in Engineering at the Technion, where he is a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He co-founded the Technion Center for Computer Engineering, was responsible for Technion Administrative Information Systems, and was Chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering. With degrees in physics, applied mathematics and electrical engineering, Professor Shwartz focuses his research on developing and applying mathematical tools to systems that exhibit random behavior. The main applications are for very large and fast computer communications networks. The goals are to analyze their behavior, optimize their performance (such as load reduction), and prevent rare but catastrophic phenomena. He received a B.Sc. in Physics and B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Ben Gurion U., Israel (1979), M.A. in Applied Mathematics (1981) and Ph.D. in Engineering (1982), both from Brown University. Professor Shwartz has published nearly 50 refereed journal papers, dozens of conference papers and reports, and has authored half a dozen books: a research monograph, edited research volumes, and textbooks. He is a member of several international research organizations, and an area and associate editor at several academic journals. He has been invited to speak at numerous international conferences on applied probability, economics, and computer communications networks.


Seth M. Siegel is a businessman, writer, and communal activist. He is the author of a book about Israel's water resources due from St. Martin's Press in October 2015. Mr. Siegel has had op-ed essays on Middle East water issues published in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and in the Israeli media. Aside from his writing, Mr. Siegel has spoken in the United States and in Israel on water issues, including at the United Nations, the WATEC conference, the AIPAC Policy Conference, and on Israel National Radio. He has been seen dozens of times on national and cable television programs, including The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CNN, and CNBC, and has been quoted many times in major print media discussing business topics. He has been a founder of several successful businesses, three of which are now international companies. Mr. Siegel is a graduate of Cornell University and the Cornell Law School, and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and sits on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations.


Nick Welch is Director of International Relations for Noble Energy. He leads a team in the United States and internationally to support Noble Energy's existing international operations as well as international new business development. Additionally, Mr. Welch has functional leadership within Noble for social responsibility, and also heads the company's Washington, D.C. office. Prior to joining Noble, Mr. Welch managed his own consultancy business working with private, public, and nonprofit partners in the United States and internationally. For 14 years Mr. Welch held a variety of senior global and regional roles in Europe and the United States with Royal Dutch Shell plc. He joined Shell in February 1996 after a number of years in the UK Government. Working first on small firms policy and subsequently on large international infrastructure projects, he served both as Private Secretary to the UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and to the Minister of Energy and Industry. Before joining government service he worked as a Regional Commercial Manager for a multinational brewing company and has also worked as a technical writer and teacher overseas, including a year teaching at the College Militaire de St Cyr in France.

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