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Good News from the Middle East
Israel’s Prospects Have Never Been Brighter
We are used to and almost inured to the daily bad news from the Middle East – bloodshed, riots, car bombings and more. But there is one spot of shining light in the area – a country forged in almost unending wars, a country that has absorbed millions of immigrants: Israel – its prospects have never been brighter.
What are the facts?
A robust and growing economy. The standard of living and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product per capita) of Israel are on the level of most European countries and ahead of quite a few. Israel is a fount of accomplishment and innovation. Almost all major U.S. high-tech companies, such as Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Cisco, Oracle, and many others, have established production and research facilities in Israel. None other than Warren Buffett (and he certainly knows where to put his money) has just recently placed a multi-billion dollar investment in Israel. Next only to Canada, Israel has the largest number of companies listed on American stock exchanges.
One of the important reasons for Israel’s economic success is the high level of education of its population, of which Israel’s world-class universities and its Technion (the fount of Nobel Prize winners) are the driving force.
A cohesive society. Israel, a country of immigrants, has a cohesive society cemented by its common faith and by the miraculously resuscitated Hebrew language. The bulk of its population are descendants of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries – all the way from Morocco to Iraq and Iran. Over a million Russian “olim” (those who have “ascended” to Israel), most of them highly educated, are now also an important segment of the populace.
The Israeli Arabs (about one-fifth of the population) are not yet fully integrated. But even they are becoming a full part of Israeli society, while maintaining their culture and their different beliefs. Another segment that is not yet fully absorbed are the immigrants from Ethiopia, because they come essentially from a medieval culture and have still some difficulty in integrating into a modern high-tech society. Finally, the “haredim” (the ultra-orthodox) are still not fully accepting the essentially secular nature of Israel’s society.
In contrast to all other Middle Eastern countries, women play a full role in Israel. The Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court is a woman. Women pilots fly the fighter planes of the IAF. Women are prominently represented in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). A woman (Golda Meir) has been prime minister of her country. The fact that women occupy high-level leadership roles both in business and in government is a reflection of the egalitarian nature of Israeli society.
Militarily, Israel is in an excellent position. There is much speculation that Egypt, with its new military leadership, might abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. But the Egyptian military are realists, however much they may rattle their sabers. There is no way that they will doom themselves by attacking an overwhelmingly powerful Israel. Syria is in total disarray and no threat to Israel for the foreseeable future. The only real threat – and it is a serious one – is Iran in its quest for a nuclear weapon. One hopes that it can be stopped by sanctions or, if necessary, even by military means. But if it could indeed produce a nuclear weapon and would launch it against Israel, chances are excellent that Israel’s advanced missile defense shield would abort it. But even the obsessed ayatollahs realize that Israel’s response to such an attack, whether or not successful, would be overwhelming and would inevitably devastate their country and decimate its population.
Energy resources of Israel, the best news of all. Energy has always been the weak link in Israel’s economy. Virtually all of its hydrocarbons have to be imported. Most of its natural gas comes from Egypt, a most unreliable supplier. But here is perhaps the best news of all: Gigantic gas fields, containing trillions of cubic feet, accompanied by a substantial amount of oil, have been discovered off Israel’s coast. These fields will begin to be exploited in 2013 and will, in one swoop, make Israel not only energy independent, but a major exporter. It will bring billions of dollars in yearly revenue. Wags have said mockingly that Moses took the children of Israel 40 years through the desert to bring them to the only place without oil. Well, the wags were wrong and Moses was right.
The outlook for Israel is excellent. Its economy is in prime condition and growing from month to month. Its society, composed of many disparate elements, is thriving and cohesive. It is prosperous, strong and secure. It has now been blessed with an abundance of mineral wealth, soon to be exploited. Israelis have been outstandingly successful so far – what with all the wars and having absorbed millions of immigrants. Just think of its wonderful future, with all the wealth of natural gas and oil soon falling into its coffers. Yes, Israel’s future has never been brighter.