By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — It would be easy to assume the success of the March 2015 dinner honoring American-Israel Public Affairs Committee President-Elect Lillian Pinkus and featuring former President George W. Bush was the driving force behind the Texas state comptroller’s enthusiasm for investing in Israel bonds.
After all, the success of this King David Award Dinner at the Omni Hotel was monumental, helping sell $60 million in bonds for Israel projects, programs and improvements.
But really, it was the great credit rating — the credit worthiness — of Israel Bonds that won over Glenn Hegar, explained Texas Leadership Cabinet Chair Kenny Goldberg.
The success of the event “was nice icing on the cake, and it was nice to have him at that event,” Goldberg said. “But I really don’t think it had anything to do with his decision.”
Pinkus deferred comment on the matter to Goldberg, and George W. Bush’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a Dec. 7 news release, Hegar announced fairly prominently that the state of Texas was one of the most recent investors in Israel bonds.
Hegar drew parallels between Israel’s “robust high-tech economy” and that of Texas, citing Israel as “one of the most active investment options for venture capital.”
Karen Garfield, Southwest Region executive director for Israel Bonds, said the similarities between the Texas and Israel are very important to note when considering the comptroller’s announcement.
“Texas and Israel have a lot in common,” Garfield said. “They are both on the forefront of groundbreaking technology. Both states work together and have a strong relationship and are proud to be partners in many areas. For instance, Texas A&M is opening a research and development center in Israel.”
Hegar said he visited Israel in the summer of 1994 and found it to be a truly amazing experience. He said he plans to go back there with his wife at the next opportunity.
Garfield stated that the information in the comptroller’s release came from an interview in the last quarter of 2015 that Israel Bonds conducted with him regarding his decision to invest.
Texas brought up its holdings to $50 million, she said.
When asked why he thought the purchase of Israel bonds was a smart investment for the state of Texas, Hegar replied, “Israel began its bond program in 1951 and has never missed a payment of principal and interest on Israel bonds in all the years since.”
Israel has a dynamic economy and a strong external balance sheet, with annual 3 percent growth expected through 2018, Hegar said.
In describing the connection Texas feels with Israel, Hegar noted, “Texans do tend to root for underdogs.”
He pointed out Israelis are “the acknowledged world experts in dryland farming, and that’s an achievement any Texan west of I-35 can understand and appreciate.”
Hegar said since 1951, more than 80 state and municipal public pension funds have invested over $2 billion in Israel bonds. Many states and municipalities such as New York, Ohio, Illinois and others — with the highest level of fiduciary responsibility — have acquired Israel bonds for their portfolios, he said.
Garfield said Texas is among the top five states with the most investment in Israel bonds.
Goldberg said this helps Texas and Israel cultivate and cement a relationship that could help either party in the future.
“We are very grateful to have the State of Texas investing in Israel,” he said.