Friday, June 25, 2010

The Israel Test

A briefing by George Gilder
May 25, 2010 (first post)

George Gilder is a leading intellectual and advocate for Israel, free markets, and technological innovation. He has served as a speechwriter for several Republican candidates and is an expert in supply-side economics. On May 25, George Gilder addressed the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on the subject of his book, The Israel Test. According to Mr. Gilder, the Arab-Israeli conflict is shaped by the undeniable fact that Israel is a fully modern state, while its neighbors are not. America must recognize this stark division to navigate the minefields of Middle Eastern politics and advance its own interests, to which Israel's success is inexorably linked.

Mr. Gilder initiated his talk by pointing out the many contributions to science made by Israelis in the 20th and 21st centuries. This has been driven by the country's general shift from agriculture to the world of capitalism and ideas, even though all indicators rank the Israeli education system as inferior to the American one. Mr. Gilder proceeded to give the example of the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, which has pioneered research into multiple sclerosis, treatment of burns, and embryonic stem cells.

Mr. Gilder then highlighted what he sees as the central problem in current U.S. policy in the Middle East. While policymakers are divided on what they view as the chief priority, Mr. Gilder believes that they have lost a "sense of goal," as they fail to recognize that Israel is the greatest asset the U.S. has in the region. For instance, most microprocessors for computers, developed by Intel, were originally invented in Israel, whereas Apple uses a flash memory invented in Israel. In other words, Israel is essential for American "economic interests."

Mr. Gilder contrasted Israel's contributions to "technology of life" with the Iranian nuclear program, which he termed "technology of death." Mr. Gilder added that although many of Israel's enemies are angered by its success, Israel nonetheless currently has a good leader in Prime Minister Netanyahu, who understands the interplay between economics and military power, as well as the war on terror.

Asked why Israel moved from a socialist economy to free markets about 10-15 years ago, Mr. Gilder asserted that it was due to the 1000% inflation that Israel suffered, as well as the arrival of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union who understood that socialism was not working.

In response to a question about whether Arab attitudes toward Israel had softened in recent years, Mr. Gilder answered in the negative. He argued that Palestinian culture in particular is still bent on eliminating Israel and resents Israel's success. Indeed, while the per-capita income in the Palestinian territories tripled in the period 1967-1987, GDP declined by 40% after Arafat's return from Tunisia and the formation of the Palestinian Authority. Rather than a two-state solution with Israel, Mr. Gilder proposed that the Palestinians should try to form a confederation with Jordan.
Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

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