I am pleased to be here tonight at the opening of the Telecom 2004 Exhibition.

This year, over one million tourists from around the world visited Israel. Most of those tourists arrived here to meet the past – to meet thousands of years of Jewish and human history in the Land of Israel. You, on the other hand, came here to meet the future.

The Telecom Exhibition, which is taking place for the sixth time, with the participation of Israeli and overseas companies, provides a platform for contemporary technological innovations, and affords us a glimpse of future trends in the field of global telecommunications – including the most up-to-date achievements in the Israeli hi-tech and telecommunications industries. Israeli society is open, curious and enthusiastically embraces technological innovations. For example, Israel is among the leading countries in the world with regard to the level of broadband usage – which reaches 45%. Israel also belongs to the exclusive worldwide club of eight countries which developed, produced and launched satellites into space. In a relatively short period of time, Israel has become one of the largest global centers in the field of hi-tech, maybe not in size, but certainly in the interest it raises. Today, Israel has more start-up companies than any other country in Europe.

The secret behind these unique achievements is Israel’s greatest natural resource – the quality of our human resources. Our inventors, developers and managers are all brilliant, creative, mostly young – but also experienced – Israelis. In viewing human capital as the primary resource of the State of Israel, my Government will determinedly continue to advance education in Israel. The Government’s steps in the field of education, headed by the implementation of the Dovrat Report – which suggests comprehensive reform of the structure of the education system in Israel – will ensure the preservation and deepening of our advantage of quality in the coming years.

Moreover, we will continue to strengthen cooperation between the Government, industrial bodies and members of the academia for the purpose of developing and advancing new business initiatives. This is the basis for the pride which we feel today thanks to our achievements, and for the feeling of confidence with which we look to the future. Hi-tech in general, and the telecom branch in particular – which is among the leaders in the Israeli economy – are not stagnant.

The Telecom Exhibition is an excellent opportunity not only to expose new technological developments, but also to stimulate cooperation between Israeli communications companies and overseas firms. At this Exhibition, these firms will realize how worthwhile it is to invest in this field in Israel.

Many companies have already done so. They established factories in Israel, and today benefit from the creativity which characterizes the Israeli engineer. Of course, by deciding to invest here, these giant companies have expressed their faith in the Israeli economy, in its strength and enormous potential.

Distinguished Guests,
Here, in the land of the prophets, there is nothing more natural than discussing the future as if it were a tangible reality and a vision as if it were a plan to be implemented. The entire State of Israel is the fruit of a vision which became reality, only because those who believed did not relinquish it even during the most difficult of times.

Israel looks to the future with hope. We have experienced several difficult years. However, the State of Israel has taken – and will continue to take – the necessary political, security and economic steps to end this crisis. These steps are not easy, but they are vital for the future of the State of Israel. Today, we can concentrate on what is most important – building Israel as a twenty-first century nation, which is counted among the most developed and advanced countries in the world.

I wish you all a successful and fruitful Exhibition, and to our guests from overseas – enjoy your stay in Israel.

Thank you.