Measuring Israel’s Natural Abundance

The book of Deuteronomy described the promised land as one “of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; . . . a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” In modern times, it has seemed more like a land conspicuously lacking in the fossil fuels that have made so many nearby countries rich. A recent government-sponsored study has taken a different approach, trying to calculate the monetary value of Israel’s natural resources. Sue Surkes explains the problems involved in performing such a calculation, and how a team of scientists tried to solve it:

How, for example, does one price an acacia tree that feeds several species of wildlife, helps to bind sandy soil, interacts with subterranean fungi and bacteria, absorbs carbon dioxide, and emits oxygen during photosynthesis?

The . . . report makes a start in attaching financial value to services (at 2015 prices), focusing on those elements—such as agricultural products, but also carbon sequestration (as absorbed by the sea)—that have a known market value. It prices these at around 7.7 billion shekels ($2.4 billion at today’s prices) a year, and says that if methods were available to value all the services, the figure would probably be closer to 122 billion shekels annually ($38 billion today), equivalent to 8 percent of GDP.

Natural vegetation that feeds cows, sheep, and goats saves farmers $83.2 million per year in feed. . . . All the water within Israel’s terrestrial boundaries—streams, springs, and the Sea of Galilee—is valued at an annual $206.7 million. Agricultural crops are worth some $1 billion a year.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli economy, Nature


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship