Introduction to Israel

Most of whatever has been, and is, publicly written and spoken about Israel is extremely inaccurate or unjustly negative. This introduction will shine a light on the true positive picture that is hardly ever given attention.

Due to its unique location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, Israel was, historically, the land connecting the whole of the known world. That natural geostrategic advantage remains a key strength in this present age of globalisation but is now complimented by Israel’s many other vitally significant qualities:

  • solid and stable parliamentary democracy
  • steadfast adherence to the rule of law
  • strong and vibrant market economy
  • attractive business environment
  • free and full convertibility of the national currency, the New Israeli Shekel
  • one of the highest life expectancies in the world
  • first-rate standard of living
  • broadband internet access in majority of homes
  • highly educated and skilled population
  • extensive use of English and numerous other secondary languages
  • outstanding universities
  • renowned for innovation and entrepreneurship
  • a world leader in scientific and high-tech research and development (R&D)
  • globally recognised pioneer in water conservation and alternative energy
  • considerable natural gas resources
  • advanced agricultural and industrial sectors
  • dynamic service sector
  • major tourism industry
  • well-developed transport infrastructure
  • rich and diverse geography
  • temperate Mediterranean climate

Israel has always sought to share its blessings with all mankind and, spurred on by this motivation, today diligently works with like-minded nations in order to do what is humanly possible to bring peace and prosperity to the entire planet.

Since 1995, Israel has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has now entered into free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Canada, Mexico, Turkey and Jordan. With Egypt, too, there is close formal collaboration on industrial matters. In 2007, Israel also became the first non-Latin American nation to sign a free trade agreement with the Mercosur group of countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay). This notable achievement is just one highlight of an ever-growing network of bilateral trade and investment accords (particularly in the area of R&D) that Israel is building with forward-thinking countries throughout the world.

Closer to home, Israel is a founder member of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), an organisation that brings together the European Union and sixteen partner countries around the Mediterranean rim with the aim of establishing new political, economic and social realities in the region. A Euro-Mediterranean free trade area is a primary goal in this context. From 1995 onwards, Israel has also been a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue. This initiative naturally dovetails with the work of the UfM by providing a framework for relationship-building in regional security matters between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and seven Mediterranean countries.

In view of the foregoing, it should come as no surprise that Israel is actually very well regarded by the principal global institutions. The United Nations considers Israel to be a "developed country" while the International Monetary Fund, for its part, includes Israel amongst those countries it lists as "advanced economies". However, definitive confirmation of Israel’s rightful place amongst the leading nations of the world can be seen in the historic and unanimous decision of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in May 2010 to invite Israel to become a member of the organisation. Officially, the OECD is a policy forum for countries committed to democracy and the free market. Unofficially, the OECD has long been known as the exclusive 'club' of developed countries and, as such, membership of the organisation carries much prestige internationally and greatly increases investor confidence and activity. For all these reasons, Israel’s acceptance into the OECD community is of immense political and economic importance and will propel the country forward as it continues to implement OECD recommendations, welcomes new foreign investment and goes on striving for excellence.

And so concludes this introduction to Israel, a country whose past and present point to its future: to become the pre-eminent 'hub nation', reaching to the four corners of the Earth. The journey to that destiny is almost over.

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv-Yafo

Ben Robinson - exploratory oil well near Caesarea, 2009