Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of his delight on Monday after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development accepted Israel into its ranks.

"This is a big day for Israel," said Netanyahu at the Likud faction meeting. As well as giving credit to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Netanyahu also commended his predecessor Ehud Olmert and former finance minister Ronnie Bar-On for starting the push for OECD membership.

At the Labor faction meeting, meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also hailed the decision.

"This will bring Israel billions," he said." It’s an important day for the Israeli economy."

Israel got the go-ahead to join the OECD at a meeting of representatives of the 31 member countries in Paris on Monday afternoon.

At the OECD meeting, the representatives were presented with an update on the status of membership bids, and voted unanimously to accept Israel as the 32nd member.

The 31-member OECD issued a statement at its Paris headquarters saying it had invited Israel, as well as Estonia and Slovenia, to become members.

The three "will contribute to a more plural and open OECD that is playing an increasingly important role in the global economic architecture," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said. He said all three countries had been "receptive to OECD recommendations" and the membership talks were "constructive and open."

The official announcement of accession will be announced at the OECD’s annual ministerial council meeting in Paris on May 26-May 28.

A 'prestigious organization'

Uri Gutman, the Foreign Ministry's director of the OECD accession process, said Israel was now a "member of a prestigious organization, but also an organization that has some credibility and influence on the world economy."

Speaking to Army Radio after the vote, Steinitz hailed the decision to accept Israel into the "most respectable socioeconomic club" as being of “immense importance,” saying it had both economic and political value.

Pro-Palestinian groups plan protests

Pro-Palestinian groups planned protests at the OECD's Paris base, and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Sunday that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was trying to block Israel’s entry.

The PA sent a letter to OECD nations asking them to postpone Israel’s membership bid.

Accepting Israel 'like accepting the occupation'

Accepting Israel “would be like accepting its occupation of the Palestinian territories,” read the letter, which was posted on the PA Foreign Ministry Web site.

Ben-Eliezer criticized Fayyad’s attempts to block Israel and said the letter came at a time when “Israel wants to open indirect talks to reach an agreement and conciliation between our nations.”

A spokesman for Fayyad was not immediately available for comment.

As part of the process of OECD accession, Israel has had to comply with the norms and standards upheld by the 31 OECD member countries in the fields of financial markets, anti-corruption legislation, technology and innovation, and investment.

In the final stage over the past few months, the organization has come to agreements with Israel on ways to tackle three critical issues: anti-corruption policy measures, in particular in the defense industry; compliance with intellectual property legislation common in OECD member countries; and the exclusion of statistics relating to territories that are not considered part of the country.

Membership in the OECD, which includes the major players in the global economy, enhances Israel’s ability to conduct an ongoing dialogue with representatives of these economies; forces an upgrade in Israel’s public administration; improve Israel’s corporate management, and reduces Israel’s risk premium and help attract investment.

Sharon Wrobel and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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