Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Mail: Reality Check

The Economist helpfully sent me their 2009 edition of "World In Figures" book today. Everything you might want to know about the world that can be said in numbers in 250 pages. This was considerate of them, as recently this blog has attracted a number of comments which can best be addressed with numbers.

One fellow from faraway Argentina who has never been here posited that Israel's colonialism against the Palestinians was intended to ensure them as a captive market, rather like the British used to lord it over the Indians.

The things the Palestinians buy from Israel are all low-technology things, such as food, processed or otherwise. Israel's GDP (in 2007, I'm assuming) was $140b, of which agriculture made up 2.8% - including everything, what we eat, what we export, and even the little we import. Israel's exports were diamonds ($14.5b), chemicals ($9.5b), communications, medical and scientific equipment, ($8b), and electronics ($2.5b). Does anyone see the vast Palestinian market that keeps us buoyant by buying up our diamonds and scientific equipment?

Someone else sent me this link, which includes this little gem (not a diamond):
The simple fact is that neither Palestine nor Israel are sustainable states. Israel has always existed with the help of massive aid from the U.S. and private donations from world Jewry. The Palestinian state, as currently envisioned, is an economic basket case, with little to support it except olive groves and human labor. Israel/Palestine is just too small and resource-p00r to support two independent economies, much less two independent and fully sovereign states. It may not even be big enough to support one state. The only inland water resource of any size is the Jordan River watershed, on which both states must be dependent.
My impression of Mr. McNarie is that he's opinionated but not well informed. Take his statement about the watershed of the Jordan river: hardly true, although if he includes the Sea of Galilee which is upriver of any Palestinian territory you might just reach a third of the total. But as I said, I'm being helped here today by the Economist, who have the following interesting things to say.

In 2006 Israel had the 42nd largest economy in the world (with 6.8 million people!). In GDP per head it was 41st, with the same ranking for purchasing power per head. When measured by what the UN calls the human development index, which combines economic numbers with literacy and life expectancy, Israel jumps to 23rd place, with a grade of 93.2 (the now defunct Iceland was first, along with Norway, at 96.8). In the global competitiveness index, Israel was 20th in the world.

Hardly a non-viable country, if you ask me, in spite of the fact that only 15% of its land is arable, and in spite of a spot of trouble here and there that the Norwegians, say, don't have.

Ah, I hear the familiar refrain, but Israel is the recipient of all that American largess. Look again at the size of Israel's GDP - $140b - and reflect upon the largess, which is something like $2b in military, and see if the statement is convincing to you. It shouldn't be.

By the way, even that American support is actually mostly a federal subsidy for American arms producers, since almost the entire sum must be spent on American equipment. Yes, it's real assistance to Israel, but no, it's not what makes us or breaks us. Not at less than 2% of GDP.


Anonymous said...

Most of the military aid consists of either joint R&D or loans used to purchase military equipment from the US.

The 2008 aid allocation was about $2B in military assistance and zero ($0) economic aid; back in 1996, Israel asked that economic aid be phased out.

Anonymous said...

See here for a ranking of Aid vs GDP.
Israel is 98th.

Big J said...

Hi, I stumbled on your blog and appreciate your ability to clarify the issues as I support Israel in it's actions in Gaza. How is the Israeli stock market doing? Many times markets can be better predictors for the future than anyone else's predictions, and if the Israel stock market shows any strength than that will probably translate thru into the political situation as well. Thanks for your time and effort.