About ten years after authoring the newspaper piece, Perry, now governor, solidified his intellectual debt to Israel, with the creation of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, "a private, not-for-profit business organization whose aim is to boost the economies of Texas and Israel by helping member companies develop important business relationships with each other and explore new market opportunities," with a focus on high-tech collaborations. Today, the Chamber claims as its two main champions Perry and Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor.
Contacts between U.S. states and Israel aren't, of course, exclusive to Texas. Among the states whose governors have made recent trade missions to Israel are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Oregon; Virginia maintains a tech alliance focused on encouraging Israeli companies to do business in the commonwealth. But, going back as it does more than quarter century, the exchange between the state of Texas and the state of Israel is generally considered the oldest such relationship, and it is certainly one of the most robust.
The Texas-Israel Exchange program has had its critics. The Sunset Advisory Commission is a body of the Texas legislature that evaluates the state's government agencies with an eye towards identifying and eliminating "waste, duplication, and inefficiency." In its once-every-12-years review of the Texas Department of Agriculture, conducted in 2008, the commission, citing the $500,000 in grants paid out through TIE in 2008 and 2009, found that the program was too much of a black box. "The Texas-Israel Exchange Fund Board provides funding for agricultural research projects intended to be of mutual beneﬁt to Texas and Israel," wrote the commission in its report. "While the program is able to leverage state dollars to fund useful research for Texas agriculture, the funding for and results of these projects are not transparent to the Legislature, the agriculture industry, or the public. The same functions could be provided by an advisory committee, rather than a semi-independent board." The board was indeed abolished, and its functions rolled back into the department as a whole. Eaton also points to the obstacles inherent in trying to move farmers into new and, in their eyes, potentially, untested ways of farming. "You're changing how people farm," he says. "You're changing how you go to market. It's a challenge."
The reality, of course, is that both Israel and Texas continue to struggle with water. Israel, mindful of the mid-60s "Water Over Water" concerning rights to the Sea of Galilee -- thought to have contributed to the tensions sparking the Six Day War -- has worked to bring online major new desalination plants. This summer, the country said that with the completion of a plant in Ashdod, "desal" water -- expensive, energy-intensive desalinated water -- would now make up 75 percent of the water consumed by its people. And Texas, of course, is in the midst of a drought of historic proportions, one that the state's existing water system can't cope with. The lack of water is reported to have caused some $5.2 billion of economic pain to the state's agricultural sector, and the state has been ravaged by fires. On the latest U.S. Drought Monitor color-coded map of drought conditions, Texas is nothing but a big angry red ball. Some three-quarters of the state is suffering through "exceptional" drought conditions, and the state climatologist is warning that this situation could continue through 2020.