Growing political tensions between the US and Israel and other campaigns to isolate and boycott the country are not having an impact on the local economy, according to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
“At present, we don’t see any significant economic repercussions whatsoever. Quite the reverse. Economically, Israel’s standing internationally has greatly improved in the past year,” Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post last week. “First of all, as regards the US, I hope that the tension will be resolved. And I believe it will be. There is goodwill on both sides.”
Recalling recent visits to the US and meetings with the entire economic leadership of the new administration, Steinitz said that he was received with great warmth and exceptional cooperation.
“Everything I asked for was accepted right away or almost right away, such as the requests regarding the enlargement of Israeli-American funds, the dialogue regarding joint Israeli-American hi-tech cooperation or the extension of the loan guarantees to 2010 and 2011,” said Steinitz.
“Elsewhere, too. I was in France in early March. There was a France-Israel trade evening, an extraordinary event with Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, and representatives of most of France’s leading companies, who all showered praise on the Israeli economy.”
Steinitz added that he would not be overly concerned with regard to the impact of of Iran’s getting nuclear weapons for the local economy, since Israel is living under constant threat.
“First of all, I hope that Iran will be prevented from achieving a nuclear capability, because it is a threat to us and the world as a whole,” he said. “I believe that the economic impact would not be dramatic since the security threat factor on Israel is already accounted for as part of the local economy, also by global credit rating agencies and investors. Still, the advantages, innovation and competitiveness of the Israeli economy have reigned over the security threat factor. We have seen wars in the past, like in 2006, during which the effect on the local economy was marginal.”
Commenting on the economic progress in the Palestinian Authority under
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Steinitz said the Netanyahu government
deserved credit for much of the development.
“We don’t take all the credit, but in the past 18 months there’s been
incredible progress in the Palestinian economy. The assessment is that
growth there in the last year – from April 2009 – is above 10 percent.
That’s unprecedented,” said Steinitz. “And it’s no surprise that it
began under the Netanyahu government, because that is part of the
government’s concept of economic peace, and it appeared in our plan for
the first 100 days – the idea that we help the Palestinians to develop
their economy, regardless of progress in the peace process.”