Zionism promised to make the desert bloom. Of course, as they were literally making this happen, the chalutzim could not have imagined the figurative blooming that would come decades later, when Israelis would lead the world in new technologies and other economic innovations.
A new report from Credit Suisse quantifies just how successful Israel has been. And while it isn’t a surprise, in some ways, it is a symbol of astonishing achievement when taken in historical context.
The Swiss bank’s Global Wealth Report takes into account the assets, minus debt, of households and individuals, including savings, real estate and investments. By this measure, Israelis are the sixth wealthiest people in the Middle East and Asia, bested only by Australia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan. With a per capita net worth between $150,000 and $175,000, Israelis are on par with, or exceed, the average European. And the wealth is distributed more evenly than it is in the United States. Not only that, but the trajectory is especially impressive for Israelis, with assets growing about 14 percent in the past year. (In Canada and the United States, the world’s wealthiest region, the average net worth of an adult is $340,000.)
The tiny country with effectively no natural resources, facing adversity and existential threat since its inception, has built a thriving economy that delivers for its citizens economic outcomes that exceed its oil-rich neighbors.
Of course, Israel’s detractors will not be impressed. Economic success is anathema to many of those who seek to boycott, divest from and sanction the Jewish state. To BDS supporters, every Israeli success is merely proof of misbegotten advantage due to exploitation or imperialism or worse.
Yet all the economic and social misery that surrounds Israel can be attributed in part back to the fatal decision nearly seven decades ago by the Arab League to have no truck nor trade with the Jews.
It is not a coincidence that the Credit Suisse report considers Canada and the United States in a single unit. Our economies are integrated enough to enjoy synergies (and yet distinct enough that the full impact of the 2008 global recession did not slam Canada as hard as it did the United States).
Were Israel as integrated into its regional economy as Canada’s is in ours, the economic miracle it represents could have spawned parallel, related success stories all around it. It still could.
A few voices in the Arab Middle East are finally speaking up to suggest that the decades-long isolation of Israel should end. Such a rapprochement would be good for Israel, to put it mildly. But it would be economically beneficial for the entire region. If economic self-interest were the defining impetus for Arab Middle East foreign policy, peace might be not so distant a dream.