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Israel at 75: A miracle in a perfect storm

30.04.2023
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According to Sh. Feldman

On any travel website, an assessment of Israel's accomplishments over the first seven and a half decades would place it between "outstanding" and "exceptional." And yet, over the past four months, this miracle has survived the Perfect Storm. First of all, Israel is an economic miracle. By 2021, its GDP has reached $488 billion, up 1,860 percent from 1980. The economies of France and Germany grew in the same forty-one years by 246 percent and 361 percent, respectively. By 2021, Israel's per capita GDP reached $52,150, up 720 percent from 1980 and now higher than Germany and France.

Another aspect of the economic miracle is the recognition of Israel as a "startup country". In 2021, Israelis registered almost twice as many patents per million people as France: 1851 versus 1011. Israeli companies also have an impressive presence on the US stock exchanges, with about 107 Israeli companies currently listed on the US market with a market value of $165 billion .

A startup nation could not have arisen without the infrastructure of research and education in science and technology, creating a society immersed in a culture of technology. Israel's success in these areas is attributed to the very high score it receives on the United Nations' Human Development Index, which includes factors such as university degrees per capita. In 2021, Israel ranked 22nd in this index with a score of 0.919. In contrast, France scored 0.903 that year, placing it in 28th place, six notches behind Israel.

In this context, one of Israel's most successful sectors is its highly developed military-industrial complex. The latest on this front is a multibillion-dollar deal to sell advanced Arrow 3 anti-missile systems to Germany and a culminating deal to export the David Sling system to Finland. At present, India is the largest buyer of Israeli arms, importing multi-billion dollar weapons and ammunition.

Adding to these economic miracles is that in recent years Israel has discovered huge natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. These reserves will allow the country to become energy independent for the first time and ensure Israel's integration in the region: its membership in the new Eastern Mediterranean Energy Cooperation Group, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and the Palestinian Authority.

The recent expansion of the network of Arab states that have signed and begun to implement peace agreements and normalization of relations with Israel is another aspect of Israel's success. To date, Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have endured many trials over forty-four and twenty-nine years, respectively. Then, in 2002, the same Arab League that in 1948 decided to prevent the creation of Israel by invading Palestine now adopted the Arab Peace Initiative. And in October 2020, four more Arab countries signed peace and normalization agreements with Israel, commonly known as the Abraham Accords: Bahrain, UAE, Morocco, and Sudan.

Moreover, in October 2022, with the mediation of the United States, an Israeli-Lebanese agreement on their economic borders was signed, allowing the mutual exploitation of natural gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. Most notably, the agreement was explicitly endorsed by Hezbollah, a movement that remains officially committed to the destruction of Israel and is actively supported and armed by Iran.

An equally surprising component of the new regional environment has been the new forms of defense cooperation agreements reached between Israel and its neighbors: with Jordan, in the fight against ISIS, especially in southern Syria; with Egypt in the fight against terrorists associated with ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Sinai; and from Abu Dhabi, in the installation of state-of-the-art anti-missile and anti-wing missile systems. Similarly, relations between Israeli and Bahraini military forces and between Israeli and Moroccan military forces are becoming closer.

No less surprising was the rapid development of Israel's burgeoning cultural life. A wave of Jewish immigration from Russia to Israel in the early 1990s added at least three more symphony orchestras to the Jewish state, and the Israeli film industry has exploded in the country over the past two decades. Culture, as an important component of the quality of life, can also influence life expectancy. By 2021, it has reached 83.3 years in Israel, compared to 76.4 years in the United States.

The final dimension of the miracle is that Israel continues to be a thriving democracy. Indeed, this is perhaps the greatest miracle of all, since none of Israel's founding fathers, with the sole exception of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, hailed from any country that had previously had democratic rule.


But now this truly amazing miracle is at the epicenter of Perfect Storm. For about 16 weeks, Israel has experienced mass protests the likes of which it has never seen before. On each of the last Saturday nights, a quarter of a million Israelis - equivalent to 8.5 million Americans - took to the streets. These protesters include many members of the Israeli elite: doctors, lawyers, retired judges, and leaders of Israel's financial community and its industrial sector.

 

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