Lag baomer bonfire 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The economic and strategic situation for Israel is surprisingly bright right
now. That’s partly due to the government’s own economic restraint, partly due to
a shift in Obama administration policy, and partly due to the conflicts among
Let’s start with the economy.
Israel’s economy grew by 3.1 percent. While some years ago this would not have
been all that impressive, it is amazing given the international economic
recession. The debt burden actually fell from 79.4% of GDP to only 73.8 percent.
As the debt of the United States and other countries zooms upwards, that’s
Israel’s credit rating also rose at a time when
America’s was declining.
Standard and Poor lifted the rating from A to
A+. Two other rating systems, Moody’s and Fitch, also increased Israel’s rating.
And that’s not all. Unemployment fell from 8.5% in 2009 to either 6.8%- 6.9%
(according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics) or 6.3% (according to the
In terms of US-Israel relations, the President Barack Obama’s visit
and Israel’s cooperation on Iran and on an attempted conciliation with Turkey
brought quick rewards. For the first time, Israel will be allowed to purchase
KC-135 aerial refueling planes, that could be most useful for attacking Iranian
nuclear facilities, among other things.
The same deal – which includes
sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to make US allies feel more
secure vis-à-vis Iran – includes V-22 Osprey aircraft that can switch between
helicopter and plane mode. Israel is the first foreign country to be allowed to
purchase this system. It could be used for border patrols – a bigger problem
given the decline in the stability along the Egyptian and Syrian borders – and
Finally, there would be more advanced radars for Israeli
planes and a new type of missile useful for knocking out enemy anti-aircraft
sites, potentially useful against Iran, among other targets. In addition, an
Israeli company is now going to be making the wings for the advanced US F-35
The completion of the border fence with Egypt increases
security in places where Palestinian and Egyptian Islamist groups are trying to
attack. It also has reduced illegal civilian crossings to zero. Ironically,
Israel has gotten control of its border while the US government proclaims that
task to be impossible for itself.
And of course there is the usual and
widely varied progress on medical, agricultural, and hi-tech innovations. Here
is a summary of those inventions.
The picture is even bright regarding
US-Israel relations, certainly compared to the previous four years. This point
is highlighted by Wikileaks’ publication of a US embassy dispatch of January 4,
2010, describing my article that day in The Jerusalem Post: “[As far as Israel
is concerned] what is important is that Obama and his entourage have learned two
things. One of them is that bashing Israel is politically costly. American
public opinion is very strongly pro- Israel. Congress is as friendly to Israel
as ever. For an administration that is more conscious of its future reelection
campaign than any previous one, holding onto Jewish voters and ensuring Jewish
donations is very important....
“The other point is that the
administration has seen that bashing Israel doesn’t get it anywhere.
one thing, the current Israeli government won’t give in easily and is very adept
at protecting its country’s interests. This administration has a great deal of
trouble being tough with anyone. If in fact the Palestinians and Arabs were
eager to make a deal and energetic about supporting other US policies, the
administration might well be tempted to press for an arrangement that largely
ignored Israeli interests.
“But this is not the case. It is the
Palestinians who refuse even to come to the negotiating table – and that is
unlikely to change quickly or easily. Arab states won’t lift a finger to help
the US on Iran, Iraq, or Arab-Israeli issues. So why bother?” I think this
analysis really fits the events that came to fruition in March 2013 with Obama’s
coming to Israel, signaling a change in US policy.
Face it: The obsession
with the “peace process” is misplaced and misleading. The big issue in the
region is the struggle for power in the Arabic-speaking world, Turkey, and Iran
between Islamists and non-Islamists. And, no, the Arab- Israeli conflict has
very little to do with these issues. Those who don’t understand these points
cannot possibly comprehend the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry may
run around the region and talk about big plans for summit
But nobody really expects anything to happen.
not, of course, to say that there aren’t problems. Yet what often seems to be
the world’s most slandered and reviled country is doing quite well. Perhaps if
Western states studied its policies rather than endlessly criticized them they
might gain from the experience.
The author is director of the Global
Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.
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