Saturday, March 21, 2015
Israel’s rapidly growing clout around the world
AP Photo/Oded BaliltyIn this Wednesday, March 18, 2015 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters In Tel Aviv.
“Two years from now, Obama will be gone, to be remembered as the worst president in American memory”
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s triumph in Israel’s election this week, so shocking and appalling to the Western press, is many other things, too.
It is a recognition by Israelis of Netanyahu as the Churchill of our times, a statesman who stands apart from virtually all other Western leaders who, whether out of cravenness or wilful blindedness, downplay the gathering storm from Iran.
It is a repudiation by Israelis of those same Western leaders, who funded the “anyone-but-Netanyahu” campaign that tried to install in his place a compliant Jew to endorse their policies of appeasement.
And it is a back of the hand to monopolies and other special interests that oppose Netanyahu’s march to freer markets. At root, Israelis understand that they’re better off with Bibi.
Israel under the rule of socialist parties, which dominated the country’s first half century of existence, was a country of heavy handed state control and of Big Labour — the Histradrut labour federation represented 85 percent of all wage earners in the 1980s. Under Netanyahu’s influence, starting in the late 1990s with his first term as prime minister, Israel systematically began dismantling the welfare state, tackling both the social safety net and the vested corporate interests.
He sold off Israel’s interests in state enterprises, abolished foreign exchange controls and otherwise liberalized the economy, attracting foreign capital and turning Israel into an entrepreneurial marvel that, according to The Economist, has the world’s highest density of startups and, next to Silicon Valley, the largest number of startups. High tech companies now beat a path to this Start-Up Nation’s door — an astonishing 250 from the U.S. alone have made Israel home to their R&D centres.
2014 set records for Israeli high-tech and biotech startups — 52 Israeli startups sold to the tune of some $15-billion plus 18 IPOs worth another $10-billion — according to end-of-year reports by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ethosia Human Resources, who expect 2015 to be even bigger. This January alone saw foreign giants such as Microsoft and Amazon shell out $900-million for companies rich in Israel’s only abundant renewable resource: ingenuity.
The Western press, operating as it does from its echo chamber, likes to describe Israel as increasingly isolated in the world due to its supposed failure to make peace with the Palestinians. Israel has never been less isolated, never been more embraced. In its immediate neighbourhood, Israel for the first time has de facto allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the Arab Sunni world.
In black Africa, Israel now is tight with countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda. In Asia, Israel is becoming tight with India, the world’s largest democracy, and with China, the world’s second largest economy, both of which are establishing free trade deals with Israel. Israel has been expanding trade with Japan, the world’s third largest economy. And Israel has close relations with countries of the former East Bloc, including Russia, once a Cold War adversary, now a partner in countering Islamic terrorism.
The watchful Arab press knows exactly why Israel has become so welcome around the world, even if the blinkered Western press doesn’t. As explained earlier this year in Al-Araby al-Jadid, a London-based Qatari daily, “Israel’s advanced technology developments have become its most prominent soft power tool for boosting diplomatic ties and improving its position in the world, enhancing its own security in the process.”
Because of Israel’s prowess in both military and civilian fields, it explained, China is cozying up to Israel, India is relying on Israeli instead of U.S. weaponry, and African countries are supporting Israel at the United Nations. Also because of this prowess, Al-Araby al-Jadid expects to see countries that once diplomatically sided with the Palestinians to flip and take pro-Israeli positions.
Israel’s technological prowess, and thus the welcome mat it now enjoys in ever-growing regions of the world, comes as a byproduct of Netanyahu’s dismantling of the welfare state. That dismantling may now accelerate because in this week’s election another dismantler shone — Moshe Kahlon, the Kulanu party leader who ran on an unabashedly pro-business, pro-competition “economic freedom” platform predicated on downsizing government while breaking up Israel’s remaining public monopolies and private oligopolies. The Western press may be surprised to learn that Kahlon, who is widely expected to become Netanyahu’s next finance minister, is considered centrist in Israeli politics.
Israel, once the darling of the Socialist Internationale, is fast becoming the darling of all but Socialist-leaning Europe, Iran and the ISIS wannabe set. Australia is stalwartly in Israel’s corner; Canada’s commitment to Israel is at an all-time high; America’s remains as strong as ever, President Obama and the American left notwithstanding.
Two years from now, Obama will be gone, to be remembered as the worst American president in memory. Prime Minister Netanyahu will remain in power and on the world stage, to be seen as one of Israel’s greatest prime ministers and one of the world’s few true statesmen.