Last week Russian tech community was excited to know that Yandex, also called Russian Google, was planning to move is headquarters to Tel Aviv. Israeli media published excerpts from the letter, sent to Israeli Prime Minister by Yandex CEO Arkadiy Volozh in which he asked to ease entry conditions for his company's employees.
Yandex was quick to deny such plans, claiming that the “move” was simply a mistake in translation. It claims that it doesn't plan on transferring its headquarters, but rather expanding its operations in Israel. Currently, Yandex employs 450 people in Israel, who work on developing autonomous automotive solutions and cloud and retail services under the name brand "Yango" (a line of taxis, electric scooters, and fast food delivery services).
Israeli authorities, however, have another version. Before the letter was sent, Volozh and other senior Yandex employees arrived in Israel, among them Yelena Bunina, and carried out talks with the Israeli ministries of finance and science.
“We didn’t need the letter just to bring the topic to the decision table; we’ve already dealt with it, but each Israeli government office has different interests,” a senior government official said.
Israel would have been happy to accept Russian programers, but the progress on this matter is blocked by internal strife among Israeli ministers. The main disputes are between the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation - who look forward to importing workers to Israel, and between the Interior Ministry and Immigration Authority, which piled up difficulties and restrictions, limiting quotas for foreign workers’ entry into Israel.
Israel suffers from severe worker shortage in the high tech industry, with public advertising appearing recently in a bid to attract more employees.
“The Ministry of Science and Technology would like to bring everyone here, but the Interior Ministry is focused solely on granting entry through the Right of Return Law (namely those with Jewish heritage). There is also the issue of bringing their families here too,” Israeli officials explained.
At the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the Israeli Knesset held heated discussions about whether or not to accept Ukrainian refugees as well as Russian ones. Many saw an opportunity in granting an educated population entry, some of whom were eligible to return per the Right of Return Law. Howeverm the discussions led to no result, so IT experts and programmers chose to relocate to the countries that were quicker to act.