Israel's quiet economic miracle
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Zionism & Israel Center http://zionism-israel.comMany might have missed what could be the most important news from Israel this year, because it doesn't involve bombing or killing anyone or giving up any land. For the first time in 58 years, Israel has a positive balance of trade. This reckoning apparently includes the giant investment of Warren Buffet in the Iscar tool and die company, and the performance may not be repeated every year. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction, and an important achievement for Israel and for Zionism. Ten or fifteen years ago, it would have been unimaginable that the Israeli Sheqel might become stronger currency than the American dollar, but it is a fact nonetheless, at least for now. Israel's long term survival depends on our economic viability. It is impossible to imagine that Israel could exist indefinitely as a subsidized project of the world Jewish community, and it is both dangerous and demeaning to base Israeli economic and military plans on indefinite foreign aid from the United States.
Israel will never be "economically independent" because no small nation, and most large ones, are not totally independent. Even the mighty United States is dependent on foreign oil, as are EU countries. However, Israel can get to the point where boycotting Israel will do more harm to the boycotters than to Israel, and it can hope to attain sufficient economic strength to provide both for defense needs and for a good quality of life for its citizens on a European standard. That is a necessary, if not a sufficient condition for long term survival of the Jewish state. If it is ever achieved, Israel can hope to be a home to American Jews, as well as to the 650,000 or more expatriate Israelis, who until now have been our most valuable export. There is no such thing as "enough" money, but Israel still still has a long way to go before it reaches European standards for all its citizens.
There are two parts to the economic success story, however. The first part is enlarging the pie. The second part is ensuring that everyone gets a reasonable piece of that pie. The centerpiece of Israel's economic success this year is the Iscar Tool and Die company, which could and should be a model for the Israeli economy in more ways than one. It represents solid basic industrial development of the kind dreamed of by early Zionists rather than luftgescheft ("air business"). It is based on fairness to employees and integration of Jewish and Arab communities. It is in many ways everything that so much of the Israeli economy is not. Iscar proves that it is possible to achieve success without economic manipulations, success that is good for labor as well as capital, and success that doesn't come at the expense of forcing people to live under third world conditions.
We will have to repeat the Iscar miracle, and a few others, many times over before we can say that the Israeli economy and Israeli society have a really solid basis.
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