Israel 2016 - Sixty eight years after Independence
By Srimal Fernando Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society
This year marks the sixty eighth anniversary of Israel's independence. In a speech Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Nation said, “The Israeli flag flies gloriously and a great light shines from Jerusalem. We are celebrating 68 years of Israeli independence.” It was sixty eight years ago, on May 14, 1948, that Britain ended its mandate over Palestine and, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, declared the establishment of Israel. One year after Israeli Independence fifty-three nations, including Britain, had extended recognition to this great nation. In May 1949, following the recommendation of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the UN General Assembly, admitted Israel to the UN adopting Resolution 273(III ).
Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (c) watches Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (r) shake hands during a trilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel September 22, 2009 in New York City.
Since the time of independence, the country has faced many conflicts with its neighbours, terrorism on its borders and more than 23,000 military personnel have died in Israel's wars.
Seven decades since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began, this small nation of just 8.5 million is well positioned to make more progress into the future. The country adopted a variety of strategies to make a meaningful contribution to the World in terms of large innovations. Israel is one of West Asia’s economic success stories advancing to upper- income status, as per the World Bank. The pace of economic change in the country has been extremely rapid. Over the past decades the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture sector, advanced irrigation methods, advanced technology, niche defence supplies and tourism had contributed significantly to the sustaining economic growth. Therefore, in 2015, exports accounted for about US$ 57.8 billion contributing to the country's economy. Also in 1985 the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the United States and Israel was the U.S.'s first bilateral free trade agreement and the two-way trade has multiplied tenfold to over $40 billion in 2013. In addition, over 1,000 Israeli companies are present and active in the U.S providing over hundred thousand American jobs in more than 40 states. Israel is one of the world's largest arms buyers, mostly from the US. In recent years, Israel's arms exports to more than fifty countries makes it the world's sixth-largest exporter of arms. The bulk of the exports were to Asia and the Pacific. In 2012 Israel's military exports totalled US $7.5 billion. (SIBAT, the Israel ministry of Defence International Defence Cooperation).
Today Israel is the world’s technologically leading exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) worth US$4.6 billion from 2005-2013. Israeli Aerospace Industries' Etan or “Steadfast” unmanned aerial vehicles, has a range of over 7,400 kilometres. About two hundred companies specialize in Internet security. The county’s cyber security export market increased at a staggering rate from US$3 billion in 2013 to US$6 billion in cyber-related products and services in 2014 (The Economic and Trade Department of the Embassy of Israel in Singapore) making it the number two cyber security nation behind the U.S.
Photo: President Clinton watches as Yitzhak Rabin, left, and Yasser Arafat shake hands in the White House after the Mideast accord signing.
For over two decades, progress in Agriculture management in deserts in Israel using various irrigation methods is a highly developed industry. Israeli agricultural producers exported nearly US$2 billion worth of agricultural products every year. In some of the harshest environments in the Arava desert in southern Israel, has seen the country’s pioneering work in desert agriculture. In 2009, about 90 miles west of Haifa, major natural gas fields have been found in Leviathan and Tamar. These discoveries in Tamar that has an estimated 240 billion cubic meters and in Leviathan that has an estimated 450 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which led to the beginning of Israel's natural gas market that has far-reaching impact on the economy and can make Israel a strategic powerhouse in years to come.
Generally, the tourism industry in Israel has a huge influence on the economy and an important sector propelling the country's economic growth. The country had 3.1 million visitors in 2015, according to Israel’s tourism ministry. In its latest assessment of the Israeli economy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects growth at 3.3 percent growth for fiscal year 2016. The government of Israel needs to push through significant reforms in key areas in order for the country’s economy to stay on track. Nevertheless, prospects for a peaceful solution for Israeli-Palestinian and its neighbours is important. Obviously the US has an important role to play in supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Economically prosperous Israel can help bring real economic progress to the Palestinians. As Israel marks sixty eight years of independence the country adopted new practices, by responding to socio-economic challenges of the past and continued facilitating sustainable economic growth that transformed the country as a rising global power.