Israel – the incubator nation

"Palestine is a start-up nation. And, perhaps more significantly, Israel is its incubator."

The Peres Center for Peace. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Peres Center for Peace.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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 incubators.
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 Afghanistan.
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 themselves.
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.
Next there’s 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.
And there’s 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.
And, finally, there’s the border that is required around any new nation and its neighbors.
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.