Having just returned from an eye-opening trip to Israel and the West Bank with a
mixed group of Jewish and Christian ministers and community leaders, I have had
my own epiphany. Palestine is a start-up nation. And, perhaps more
significantly, Israel is its incubator.
What do I mean? Well, in a
Venture Capital-smart world, we’re all au fait with the concept of
These are organizations that provide funding and expertise to
small start-up companies to ensure that they have the adequate resources,
financial and managerial, to “go it alone.” Just as the mother bird incubates
her eggs until the point that they can hatch and the chick can stand on its own
two feet, so too these incubators exist to ensure that start-up companies can
have the best chance of flourishing in a complex world.
In Israel over
the past 10 years, the Israeli government has invested over $650 million in
1,700 companies to get them started (source: Office of the Chief Scientist
2013). So far, those 1,700 companies have succeeded in raising a further $3.5
billion in private sector funding.
That makes Israel the most successful
incubator nation on the planet.
And if you look around the Middle East
today, there aren’t that many Arab nations that are standing on their own two
feet. One hundred thousand tragic civilian deaths in Syria over the past two
years, thousands killed in wars in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and
So, for the good of both the Palestinians and the Israelis,
a new Palestinian nation in the West Bank is currently being incubated by
Israel, before launching it into independence.
And this can be seen in a
number of different arenas.
Firstly, security. The new Palestinian state
will require good policing. And it was the senior Fatah representative that we
met with in Ramallah who told us that Israel was insisting that 40 percent of
his annual budget was being spent on policing the West Bank. This was the cost
of funding Arab security forces to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel which
would slow down any peace agreement. But ultimately it is not just Israelis who
benefit from law and order in the West Bank, it is primarily the Palestinians
And then there’s healthcare. A meeting with a key Israeli
NGO, The Peres Center, revealed to us how Israel is incubating the new
Palestinian Health Service. Currently in the West Bank, there are a number of
hospitals, but certain medical procedures are not yet possible by Palestinian
doctors, due to lack of training and experience in this start-up state. The
Peres Center has facilitated the referral of Palestinian babies and children to
Israeli hospitals for complex investigations, diagnoses and surgical procedures.
Over 1,500 referrals are received annually, resulting in major procedures such
as cardiac surgery, bone marrow transplantations, cochlear implantations, brain
and neurosurgery, cancer treatment and more.
Referrals are assessed by a
highly qualified team of Palestinian doctors and can take between three weeks
and 15 minutes to be agreed. Babies born with certain heart defects in Nablus,
Ramallah or Bethlehem are sent immediately, with their parents, by ambulance to
the top hospitals in Jerusalem. Over 10,000 Palestinian children have been
treated since this scheme began (source: Peres Center).
And what’s more,
170 Palestinian doctors have been trained, or are in the process of being
trained, at Israeli hospitals where they spend 3-5 years learning the
specialities that are needed in their start-up nation.
economics. A new Palestinian state will require a strong economy and job
creation in order for it to be stable. And here, too, Israel has been
instrumental in coordinating a number of initiatives that have increased trade
between the two peoples. Thanks to these initiatives, the Palestinian economy
has been growing at between five percent and 10% annually for the past five
years– not bad in a world economy that has all but stagnated.
water. A Palestinian state will require increasing quantities of water in order
to replicate the agricultural miracle of its neighbor, Israel. Currently water
is in short supply in the region. However, with desalination technology
currently being designed and implemented by Israel, more of the conventional
water supply is being made available for Palestinians.
there’s the border that is required around any new nation and its
The security fence built by Israel over the past few years has
been immensely unpopular among Palestinians who live close to it. However, when
the egg hatches, it will need its own security and independence. Although some
5% of territories are under dispute, at least 95% of the barrier is likely to
remain in place in any final settlement agreement.
It’s not certain that
a two-state solution will be reached by this government, or whether it will take
a few more years in coming. But one thing is for sure: Israel, the incubator
nation, is investing resources, financial and managerial, in order to ensure
that Palestine will be the most successful start-up nation in history. And that
will be the best outcome for Jews and Arabs alike.
The author is rabbi of
the Radlett United Synagogue in the UK.
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