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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict