Dominic Green Dominic Green

Israel at 70: there’s no failure like success

On Wednesday, Israel marks seventy years of statehood. When David Ben Gurion declared independence on May 14th, 1948—the anniversary floats about according to the Hebrew calendar—the new state’s population was 872,000. Just over 7000,000, or 80% of the new Israelis were Jewish, and they constituted about a tenth of the global Jewish population. Today, Israel’s population of nearly nine million is 75% Jewish, and contains about half of the world’s Jews.

The numbers alone reflect an improbable fulfilment of the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’, a possibility first voiced by Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy, and subsequently given modern political form by Theodor Herzl. Nothing like this has happened in recorded history. But the quality of Israel is no less astounding than its quantity.

No other post-colonial state has remained a democracy while granting its people a developed-world standard of living. In the IMF’s 2018 forecasts for GDP per capita, Israel ($40,762) is twenty-third out of 193 states—just behind France and New Zealand, and just ahead of Japan and the United Kingdom. Compare Israel to its neighbours, and you get an idea of the scale of its economic achievement. Lebanon is in 63rd place, and Jordan is in 96th place. Egypt is a basket case in 128th place, with a GDP per capita of $3,760. Syria has no GDP per capita at all, according to the IMF. Such are the wages of state socialism and state-sponsored anti-Semitism.

Israel, in 1948 an exporter of avocados and oranges, now has a tech sector second only to Silicon Valley. In a good year, there are more start-ups in Herzliya, the beach town just north of Tel Aviv, than in the entire European Union. Two factors caused this technological leap forward. Each says a lot about why Israel has succeeded where most states have failed.

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