The Rise of the Shekel

In the mid-1980s, the Israeli government, facing runaway inflation and a general economic crisis, implemented a series of fiscal reforms, which included the introduction of the New Israel Shekel. Not only has it proved far stabler than its predecessor, its recent increase in purchasing power has helped make Tel Aviv the world’s most expensive city. Matti Friedman writes:

It wasn’t too long ago that a dollar could easily buy four shekels—in fact, there was a time when a dollar could buy 1,630 shekels [old shekels, that is]—but as I write these lines the dollar is struggling, incredibly, to buy a measly three. The dollars in my bank account are worth a fifth less in shekels than they were last March, and the same trend affects my parents’ pensions and what I’ll get from Tablet for writing this column.

American currency has always played an important role in the emotional life of Israelis, who used to hoard dollars under floor tiles. Serious business was done in dollars, which were like that stable guy who’d always be there for you. Our own colorful shekel notes, by contrast, were like the high-strung friend you hung out with but wouldn’t trust with your car.

But important as the reforms of the 1980s were, governments do the most to help economic growth by staying out of the way:

Those watching Israel from the outside are condemned to mistake political news for the life of the country. Insiders understand that over the past two decades something deep has come together here in culture and economics, and that modern Israeli society is only tenuously connected to the government. That’s the answer to a perplexing question—namely, how on earth the economy managed to boom through the past two years of political deadlock and infighting, with no national budget.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that to some extent our economy isn’t dependent on the government,” [the Tel Aviv University economist] Paul Rivlin said. “The politicians can muck it up, and I wouldn’t put it past them, but even having four elections one after the other didn’t do it.” Just in the first half of this year the sum of foreign investments in Israel, mainly in tech, reached $37 billion—close to the sum for all of the previous year, and greater than the sum for the year before that.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Economic freedom, Israeli economy

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy