From a relatively poor country to one of the 25 richest in the world.
To many, Israel today is the Start Up nation, a wealthy, and a militarily powerful state. It did not become that overnight. Some radicals anti-Israel voices describe Israel erroneously as “white.” The facts however are different. There are over one hundred thousand immigrants from Ethiopia, African economic migrants in the thousands, and Mizrahi Jews from the Arab Middle East, who comprise about half the population. Israelis of all colors and creeds made the desert bloom, overcoming the hardships of wars, terror, and absorbing millions of Jewish refugees without any natural resources.
Known today for its unique entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, Israel started its independence in 1948 as a country bereft of natural and financial resources. A pervasive joke in the country went like this… “Moses made a mistake in direction. Instead of leading the Israelites from the Sinai to the Land of Milk and Honey northeast of the Sinai, he should have gone East across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. That way, we would have oil and wealth.”
Joking aside, the Jewish State in the early years had no monetary reserves, little economic infrastructure, and few public services. In the 1950’s the government instituted rations known as the “Tzena” (austerity) era. Families were allocated food stamps that allowed them to buy limited amounts of sugar, flour, and oil, as well as eggs a month. Meat was rationed as well, and red meat was rare and expensive to serve at the time. As a small child in the 1950’s and early teenager in the 1960’s, I remember the paucity of toys available for children. This reporter played with matchboxes which became imaginary Israeli tanks that liberated Auschwitz and saved the Jews. I grew up with families of Holocaust survivors including my own. Their ordeals shaped the minds of children, including this reporter.
Israel at that time had a quasi-socialist economy, lacking major private ownership of economic entities. Banks, the national airline – El Al, Israel’s shipping fleet – ZIM, were government owned and run. And, what the government did not own, the trade unions or Histadrut owned. This was a critical period in the country’s history, which coincided with a massive inflow of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and the Maghreb (North Africa), who had to be housed, fed, clothed, and employed. Given the shortage of capital, the burden of dealing with these problems fell upon the public sector.
It should be noteworthy that in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, a full 1% of the Jewish population was killed, and the country’s infrastructure was in disarray. The U.S. and Britain imposed an embargo on the sale of arms during the war and afterward, while Israel’s enemies, Egypt, Jordan, (which was commanded by a British officer named Glubb Pasha) Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria were already established states, and could count on their existing large arsenals. The decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s were anything but peaceful. Fedayeen (terrorists) from Gaza crossed the Green Line into Israel with the aim to kill Israelis and destroy farmland and industrial facilities. Attacked were buses that killed many women and children. It eventually led to the 1956 Sinai Campaign, in which Israel defeated the Egyptian forces in the Sinai and reached the Suez Canal. The Six Day War, about a decade later, saw Israel performing a most stunning feat by defeating three major Arab armies in six days.
Following the war, the country’s narrow borders were now widened to provide more security for the small nation, erasing the previous narrow waistline of only 9 miles between the border and the Mediterranean Sea, where its main population centers and international airport were located. The euphoria of the Six Day War subsided as Israel faced 1969, the War of Attrition, in which this reporter’s cousin was killed. In that war, Israeli pilots tangled with their Soviet counterparts and shutdown a few dozen Soviet Mig’s in dogfights.
In the 1970’s, PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) terror dominated the decade, especially before the Yom Kippur War of 1973. A war in which Israel was attacked on its holiest day of the year, and fought back into victory, but at a very high cost in lives and materiel. At the end of the decade, in 1979, the miracle of peace with Egypt occurred. That same year also ushered the arrival of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state-sponsored terrorist regime.
The 1980’s saw two major wars in the region, the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), which claimed the lives of over a million soldiers and civilians. By comparison, the Second Lebanon War of 1982, was somewhat insignificant on the scale of death and destruction. Still, Israel removed the PLO menace from Lebanon. In 1981, Israel eliminated Iraq’s dictator’s (Saddam Hussein) nuclear ambitions by destroying the Osirak nuclear reactor in an operation codenamed “Operation Opera.”
In the economic sphere, the Israeli government Stabilization Plan of July 1985, reduced the government involvement in the economy, as well as public spending (from about 60% of the GDP to 43%). Debt was reduced from 163% to 78%. Additionally, defense expenditures were cut down from 20% of the GDP to 10%. U.S. loans to Israel for defense acquisitions were turned into grants. By the middle of 1986, inflation was brought down from three digits to double-digits of around 20%.
Beginning in 1990, the arrival of over a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, dramatically increased domestic demand. This led to accelerated economic growth and a sharp increase in investments. The 1990’s witnessed the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, signed on the White House lawn in September 1993. A year later, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. The Oslo Accords notwithstanding, Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, incited Palestinian terror, which including homicide bombing, souring Israelis on the possibility of having a peace partner.
The 21st Century began with Arafat’s initiated intifada which lasted until 2004. Peace overtures and significant concessions by Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert in 2000 and 2008 did not lead to a breakthrough. The Palestinians rejected both opportunities. The Israeli economy, on the other hand, experienced a fantastic boom. Tyler Cowen, in a Bloomberg Opinion piece (June 6, 2019) wrote: “In the last half century or so, Israel went from being a relatively poor country to one of the 25 richest in the world, as measured by per capita income. Israel has done this largely by pursuing trade, integration into the global economy, liberalization of the economy, and heavy investments in the tech sector and in startups, often with government support.” In fact, Israel’s per capita income in 2018 stood at $41,581.119, its Gross Domestic Product at $392 billion, and its growth rate was an astonishing 4.4% in 2018. Israel has come a long way from exporting oranges and phosphates, to becoming a leading high-tech exporter, including water technology, medical devices, and sophisticated arms.
To get a perspective on how dramatically Israel has changed, on Capitol Hill, in a panel addressing Members of Congress and aides, this reporter pointed out that until recent decades a trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have taken two- and one-half hours. Today, with non-rush-hour traffic, that trip would only take about 30-35 minutes. Israel’s infrastructure has undergone tremendous expansion, with four lane highways across the country, and a comfortable rail service. Israel has not only become rich, it is a comfortable country to live in and tour.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.