May 3, 2014
Many of us are a similar age to Israel. Israel happens to be one that enjoys celebrating; enjoys being reminded of its achievements.
Under the circumstances, it’s absolutely normal.
Let me ‘bless you’ with some of the ‘gushing’ from the Israeli media this week:
Cartoon depicting happy ‘I Love Israel’ man turning the sausages on his barbecue, and dog eagerly awaiting with his plate: “The one place in the Middle East where the fire and the smoke is from barbecues and not bombs”.
The 2 A’s – John Kerry’s latest and so silly gaffe about a one-state Israel possibly ending in Apartheid was not the first time a diplomat and/or politician has used this word. Hell, we have lefties here that love to frighten us with it. But Kerry’s use of the word gave the OK for the other A to burst out again: so much of the reaction is Anti-semitically based.
A chance to get at Israel without really knowing why. I mean, we have already proved how we would run a state with a large Arab minority, and as most know, Israeli Arabs would NOT want to become part of a Palestinian state, should the peace negotiations result in a land-swap. So silly.
When you consider what this country has been through in this short life-time, despite all the odds, it is fantastic that nearly every visitor, pro-Israel or not, says, upon leaving, that ‘they never thought it would be like this…fantastic’. Let’s just look at some of the overall economic ‘miracles’ –
Let’s start with the international boycott against the new State, started in 1948 by countries like Turkey. Renault were here, but left in the mid-50s. Ford cancelled plans to build here. All Japanese manufacturers except Subaru avoided Israel until the 80s. It all fizzled out.
Few countries have had to endure a defence budget like ours – throughout their history. We spend more than 3 times per head on security than practically all other developed countries.
Next was trade with neighbours. You can imagine that this has always been minimal. That meant trading with distant partners, with subsequent high shipping costs, making us less-competitive.
Until now, almost no natural resources. You name it, it wasn’t here – not even water. (Don’t tell anyone, but since the Cold War, it’s Russia and Azerbaijan who have been our main suppliers of oil). Unbelievably, the current enormous gas finds are no longer quite as ‘desperately important’ as they would have been, considering Israel’s current ‘power’ in other sectors.
It is hoped and expected that the benefits from the Mediterranean finds will be strictly controlled, like Israel’s wonderful ‘drip-irrigation’ system, so that corruption is kept at bay, and many future generations will benefit.
Immigrants: no other country has absorbed the ‘relative numbers’ that Israel has. And so many came penniless. Oh, how the opponents love to bring in the ‘rich Jew’ weapon. Well, they should have sat themselves at the arrival areas in the ports/airports – borders don’t function as means of personnel arrival.
They would have seen armies of destitution, initially from Europe after the Holocaust, and then from Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Plus a few oligarchs…count them on two hands.
Another interesting and lesser-known factor was that Israel’s first years were run by socialists, who often mistrusted private enterprise. So state-owned bureaucracies were set up to mess things up. Taxes were – and still are – very high.
It was in the mid-80s, during Itzhak Rabin’s tenure as PM, when the stabilisation plan defeated inflation (initially the hyper-version), cut defence spending, abolished subsidies, made the Bank of Israel independent, and broke the power of the unions (Thatcher’s greatest achievement in the UK).
In 2003, there was another economic explosion, which somehow changed the Shekel from being one the World’s weakest to one of the World’s strongest currencies, with GDP growth, foreign investment (BDS – bah!) and per-capita foreign currency reserves among the World’s highest.
And what about regional events – how have they affected all this? Europe and America were always the World’s leaders. Not any more. In Israel’s first 40 years, trade, in fact ANY connection with non-Western economies was almost nil. But, this year, China’s economy is expected to overtake US, and India will do the same to Japan.
Just like GB’s global reign ended in 1945, so also the around-140 years during which US was the World’s leading economy is now ending. The World’s changing dramatically, and Israel has cleverly ridden that storm – again despite the anti-Israel rhetoric. For the first time, Israel’s exports to Asia will surpass those to USA. And Europe’s share, currently around 40%, is steadily shrinking, with Asia taking the slack. How come?
OK, let’s not call it brains. Let’s use the broad word: innovation. Between 2003 and 2013, Israeli entrepreneurs sold 772 start-up companies for around $42 billion. In 2013 alone, 45 were sold for aggregate $6.4 billion. And it’s companies like Google, IBM, Cisco and Apple who are gobbling them up. And look at Intel: they’ve just agreed to invest a further $4 billion in new chip production in Israel. Over 10,000 new jobs, plus many others to be positively affected.
China’s watching all this. As they expand, they’re going to need Israel’s resources. India already does: there are already over 30 Israeli agricultural centres established across the sub-continent, introducing new irrigation and fertilising technologies.
In Central Asia and Latin America, they already thank Israel for doubling a cow’s milk production or a field’s yield.
This all bodes well for Israel and it’s ‘politics-ignoring’ partners. Only its neighbours stay out of this ‘family’. And considering the in-house ‘squabbles’ that are happening as I write, the prospects are not good. Does that bother Israel? Being the basically decent society that it is, yes. But it needn’t. The regional mayhem has actually allowed Israel to cut it’s defence budget.
On a lighter note, Kerry’s gaffe was almost obliterated by two vastly-differing events.
First, was the passing of Assi Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s wonderful enfant terrible. 3 years older than Israel, Assaf was a produce of a very ‘interesting family’, to say the least.
He became a very good-looking and much-loved actor and director. His persistent substance abuse was embraced and protected by so many who loved him. He somehow glided from crisis to crisis, in recent years, famously giving birth to ‘Ha Tipul’, known abroad as ‘The Treatment’, and leaving behind him some really wonderful roles.
And then, Maccabi’s re-entry into the European basketball semi-finals, having beaten Milan 3-1 in the play-offs, where they join giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow. You may be surprised to know that Maccabi were European champions in 2005 and 2005. They were losing finalists in 2006 and 2008. But they reached the semis only once in the last 6 years, in 2011.
OK, they may now be dumped, like Chelsea and Athletico Madrid in the football. Well, they have had a very up and down season. But, like in the international politics (well, at least the international media), Maccabi are a powerhouse.
So, Apartheid or Anti-Semitism or whatever, watch out Moscow, May 16th!
And Happy Birthday, Israel.
PS – And instead of another Nobel Prize, please give us Jonathan Pollard. Right or wrong, that spy has paid his dues…
And PPS – Please give us another miracle: bring sight back to the Palestinian eyes, so that they see and realise that white and blue really are….white and blue.