Posts tagged ‘r&d’

April 2, 2012

Quick Thought: Israel Should Join the European Union

by Gedalyah Reback

It’s a topic that isn’t broached so often. The reasons aren’t clear. It might have to do with Israeli hesitation toward Europe because of historical baggage. But considering the idea Israel might join NATO comes up every so often, it isn’t so much of a leap. So what keeps this off the radar? Shouldn’t Israel want to join the group?

There are negatives that I can think of, but as a personal exercise I’d like to cover the positives. There are immediate benefits and potential in all of them.

1. Movement

The benefit to Israelis would be the ability to move about Europe more freely and for longer periods of time. It would give Israelis more opportunities to study abroad and build relationships with future business and political partners in important countries from the UK to Germany to Poland. The reverse would also be a benefit. European Jews would more often visit Israel, probably with a heavy level of extended stays by students and retirees. This is something Israel has coveted for decades, a way of channeling more European Jews to the Holy Land to become permanent residents and citizens. It would probably launch at the least a small rekindle of European Zionism in the Jewish community there.

2. Money and Energy

Really these two topics are linked. Since 1992, Europe has added 2.5 million jobs. The opening of borders has let new import/export relationships develop, plus there is a higher-level, professional exchange of knowledge and business that would be incredibly valuable to Israel’s high-tech sector. Israel’s joining the Union would serve as free publicity for Israel’s start-up industry, plus even work in the reverse. With so many foreign interests investing in Israeli companies, the time is coming for Israeli entrepreneurs to buy up foreign assets for themselves.

The opening to tourists is the obvious and most easy-to-understand benefit of the whole project. With easier access to Israel for travelers, that means more cash for the tourist industry, taxes for the government and eventually government investment in various sectors that would in turn sell to continental Europe. Even if Israeli prices were to be equal to Western European prices, there would be extra cash flow.

A major sector that would benefit would be Israel’s growing energy market. Israel has always needed oil, but soon it will be producing natural gas. Depending on how large the exports can be, an internal EU market for fuel would be a major boon for Europe to welcome Israel into the Union and for Israel’s economy. Plus, a massive amount of research & development for alternative energy is happening in Israel. There are infinite possibilities for exporting an untapped and extremely interested market like the one that exists in Europe. It goes hand and hand with Israel’s other R&D, in high-tech.

Other benefits would be in certain import/export markets like cars. The potential for more cars on the road here could mean lower taxes for Israelis and more infrastructure development also. It could even make negotiating building highways in Palestinian territory easier if European automakers and the EU’s political power are behind the push. It would open up access across the country.

3. Customs and Security

The major benefit would probably be in customs, not even the probably infinitely better relationship with NATO. On the customs front, Israel would have more ready access to European travelers and cooperation with other countries’ enforcement agencies and border patrols. It would make monitoring any threats from militant Muslims in Europe easier, particularly from France or Germany.

As mentioned before, entering the European Union would be more reason to join NATO. NATO’s major benefit is its collective defense protocols. First implemented after September 11th, the attack on the United States was defined as an attack on the entire alliance, making the invasion of Afghanistan, overthrow of the Taliban and crushing of Al-Qaeda all NATO priorities and missions, not merely those of the US. Thus, an attack by a foreign power, whether directly or via an affiliated terrorist organization, could be designated an attack on all of NATO, and automatically trigger a cooperative counterattack against an aggressive country like Pakistan, Iran or potentially a future hostile Egypt.

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This is a very blanket list of positives to the idea. Ideologically, economically and defensively, the move makes a lot of sense. It’s worth exploring for Israel’s future in terms of infrastructure, external security and even the potential to attract more Jews to become citizens of Israel.

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October 11, 2011

Israel’s Pioneer Status is Slipping

by Gedalyah Reback

We've heard about how Intel is made in Israel, but is the country losing its status as a science hub? | Photo by flickr user yum9me (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
You’ve heard about how Intel processors are made in Israel, but is the country losing its status as a science hub? | Photo by flickr user yum9me (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Israel is considered a pioneer. Its technological and medical developments might be the results of years of input from a culture of research and development. But even after one of the country’s top chemists’ latest Nobel Prize win, Professor Ehud Keinan of the country’s educational advisory board on chemistry has been very public with his anxiety the country’s pioneering spirit is slipping. He highlights education, but most Israelis are preoccupied with diplomacy.

Turkey. Egypt. Palestine. It seems like the world is collapsing in on Israel, that these three and many more problems are converging into an unfortunate coincidence. In reality, these events are all linked: the fallout with Turkey, the cooling peace with Egypt and the collapse of Israel’s position internationally on the Palestinians. The past two years might give us a clue as to what is happening. That is to say, the previous two years and the government at the helm during them is not the source of the problem. The problem has been in play for quite a long time. It is relatively simple and frightening on multiple levels at the same time.

Israel has no plan. Many countries, typically socialist ones, are obsessed with the concept. Typically, public planning in those places doesn’t go further than a few years, but it projects an attitude which is strangely absent in Western countries. Debt has consumed many of these countries based on principles that emphasize borrowing and pushing off responsibility. Israel’s challenge is more unique.

On the one hand, Israel is a country that has been locked into a particular situation with no sense of what the obvious course of action is. On the other hand, Israel is arguably a country without the proper mindset to conceive of long-term planning.

Since the country’s birth, it has been fighting for survival. Israel’s need for foreign assistance during the War of Independence was dire. Its win in 1967 against Arab armies could have easily been a loss, had Egypt chosen to attack first and set the Israelis back. In 1973, American resupply might not have given Golda Meir the chance to turn the tables on Egypt and Syria. The citizens of Israel have let the idea become embedded in their collective psyche that wars are fought in minutes and with luck–and that they are even won that way. With that, the very concept of planning has been forsaken.

That is the explanation a friend of mine from the Technion gave me last month when we were discussing what I thought was Israel’s diplomatic complex. The country’s lack of a long-term plan for its people–population targets, land retention, foreign business investments and, especially, the lack of a plan for the day after a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians–are all feeding the diplomatic spiral.

My friend explained it in terms of mentality. I liked her take. Israel’s politicians have been immobile as the Middle East has exploded. They might not have been if they had been forward-thinking years ago. As Lebanon pushed Syrian troops out of their country and Iraq got a shot at democratic government, further changes seemed inevitable to major analysts and politicians. The writing was on the wall.

As Israel faces a number of challenges regarding the size of its population, its lack of cultural influence in the Middle East, and its tiny position on the world stage. At the United Nations, Israel has the unusual status of having no specified regional group. Membership in these divisions is necessary to qualify for the UN Security Council. Because of Arab enmity, Israel has not been able to represent the Middle East and thus has been locked out.

Where is the initiative to improve this situation?

Diplomatically, Israel can improve its situations by focusing on itself. What is Israel’s goal from its ties to the Palestinians? Is it really as simple as a secure peace? If Israel can answer with what it needs as a country to build for itself a plan, it will indeed salvage its sliding yet enduring image as a pioneering country.

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