by Yoram Ettinger
Time is running in Israel's favor, in contrast to conventional wisdom, as evidenced by the “global economic walk” and irrespective of the “global political talk.”
At the outset of the Jewish New Year 5772, Israel's gross domestic product is $240 billion, and the country has a 3 percent deficit, 5.7% unemployment, 3% interest rate and 3% inflation -- compared with $38 billion GDP in 1990 and $1 billion in 1949. Israel's credit rating has been recently upgraded by Standard & Poor, ranking it among the top OECD economies.
In 1948, Israel had no sifgnificant exports, compared with a $6.7 billion current account (mostly trade balance) surplus in 2010, with the U.S., Europe and India as the chief trading partners. Notwithstanding disturbing Turkish statements, Israel-Turkey trade volume has surged 140% since the Islamic AKP party assumed power in 2002 -- $3.45 billion in 2010 compared with $1.4 billion in 2002. Irrespective of political tensions, the first quarter of 2011 features a 40% increase in the mutually beneficial Israel-Turkey trade from the first quarter of 2010.
In 2011, Israel takes pride in robust exports, despite the global economic meltdown, due to its highly specialized lines of exports, which correspond to vital global needs in the areas of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biomed, agriculture, water technologies, energy alternatives, software, laptop computers, telecommunications and defense industries. The latter features Israel as the fifth largest global defense exporter. The New York-based “Trading Economics” reported a $1 billion Israeli current account surplus in the first quarter of 2011.
Recently, the Houston-based Noble Energy company discovered proven offshore natural gas reserves, which will transform Israel by 2014 from nearly total reliance on imported energy to a major exporter of natural gas. The Jewish state is “a shining high-tech city on a hill,” attracting leading global companies, venture capitalists and investment banks, which seek unique manpower and cutting-edge innovative technologies. The European Community appoints Israelis to head its high-technology commissions.
Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, calls Microsoft as much an Israeli company as an American company because of the importance of its Israeli technologies, such as the Kinect gaming motion-sensor interface, the fastest-growing consumer electronic product in history. The same applies, increasingly, to Google, Cisco and eBay, and Apple's memory systems for its iPhones, iPods and iPads. According to Intel's CEO, Intel would have been devastated by the competition, if not for its four research and development centers and two manufacturing plants in Israel, which developed its most advanced microprocessors, Pentium, Sandbridge, Atom and Centrino.
Leading American venture capital funds Sequoia, Greylock, Accel and Orbimed have become frequent investors in Israel, and some 400 global high-tech companies have established a research and manufacturing presence in Israel. IBM and Computers Associates just made their ninth and 10th acquisitions of Israeli companies respectively. Overseas investments in Israel's high-tech exceed any single European country and France and Germany combined.
The American defense industry has been a major beneficiary of Israel's unique technological and battle capabilities. Thus, the current generation of the F-16 features more than 600 modifications, introduced by Israel, making it a global success and enhancing the American employment, research and development and export infrastructures. Northrop Grumman's robotics division’s cooperation with, and sales to, Israel have dramatically upgraded the quality of its products, as has been the case with hundreds of U.S. defense systems employed by Israel.
In retrospect, Arab wars and terrorism, geopolitical constraints and limited natural resources have been nothing but bumps on the path of an unprecedented Israeli economic, technological, educational and defense surge, which has benefited humanity at large.
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