Expect the Good News about Israel’s Economy to Keep Coming

Aug. 17 2018

For the first time in seven years, S&P Global—a firm known for its credit ratings—upgraded Israel’s rating to a higher-than-ever AA-. Moody’s also recently gave Israel a similarly positive upgrade. Predictably, opponents of the Netanyahu government pointed to the Israeli economy’s problems, such as inequality, the high cost of living, and so forth. Zev Chafets comments:

[The critics are] right about the extremely high cost of living, the scarcity of affordable housing, and the rate of poverty, which exceed those of most [advanced] countries. The Economist just named Tel Aviv the world’s ninth most expensive city. Currency appreciation has played a role in this. It also reflects the transformation that has made Tel Aviv an economic engine for the economy. Still, soaring housing prices . . . are a real issue for many Israelis. . . .

A credit rating is a judgment on a limited set of issues; Israel’s challenges are more complex than just the factors that impact its ability to borrow on international markets. Still, it shows that the terror problems that caused its credit rating to drop at the start of the century are no longer an overriding concern from that perspective. . . .

Israel is a world leader in everything from medical cannabis research to unmanned aircraft, from integrated circuits to water desalinization. It exports agricultural technology to poor countries, cut diamonds to the rich ones, pharmaceuticals, and, lately, entertainment to American networks. Israel has also managed to become a destination for both gay tourists and Christian pilgrims. . . .

Israel could be complacent, but it isn’t. Last week, Professor Isaac Ben-Israel unveiled a new national project. As an IDF general, he was the father of Israel’s widely admired anti-missile program. As a civilian, in 2010, he conceived and developed a cybersecurity ecosystem. Now, with government support and private investment, he intends to do the same for artificial intelligence. Ben-Israel’s plan, which has Netanyahu’s support, includes making AI and data science mandatory in high schools and universities, leveraging government investment to foster startups, cooperating with Intel and other foreign high-tech companies that already have Israeli research-and-development centers, and concentrating on areas in which Israel has a competitive advantage, including financial technology, healthcare, robotics, and the [so-called] “Internet of Things.”

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More about: Artifical Intelligence, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli technology

Iran Is Back on Israel’s Doorstep

Feb. 15 2019

On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.

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More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria