NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to the press after meeting in Jerusalem.
Anti-Israel activists protested near OECD headquarters in Paris earlier this month. Arab states and the Palestinian Authority lobbied against Israel’s acceptance to the OECD.
Israel Joins Prestigious Economic Club
After weeks of behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by the Obama administration and Congress, the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) voted unanimously to invite Israel to join the prestigious economic forum. The May 10 vote signaled a new era for Israel’s economic development and international stature.
“It’s a seal of approval,” stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. OECD membership provides a new avenue for Israel to forge vital diplomatic relationships outside of the often-hostile United Nations forum.
The OECD comprises 31 nations—representing the world’s most elite economies—that demonstrate democratic values and free-market principles. (The organization will grow to 34 countries once Israel, Estonia and Slovenia officially become members.)
Founded in 1960 with 20 nations, the OECD’s mission is to “support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries’ economic development and contribute to growth in world trade.” Israel’s membership provides an important seat at one of the most powerful political tables in the world.
United States Backs Israel’s Admission
Israel has sought admission to the exclusive body since 2000, taking unilateral steps to bring its economy in line with OECD standards. Its acceptance, however, was never assured. Unanimous approval from all member states is required for admission.
While no Arab states are members of the OECD—democratic governance is a base criterion for membership—some Arab leaders, including Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salem Fayyad, lobbied for Israel’s exclusion.
In addition, at least four members—Switzerland, Ireland, Norway and, especially, Turkey—were hesitant to approve Israel’s accession because of political disagreements with Israel.
To counter these pressures, the Obama administration used its diplomatic weight to focus attention precisely where it should be—on Israel’s merits for accession, not on extraneous political factors.
President Obama’s efforts were a continuation of the policies implemented during the Bush administration. When Israel formally submitted its OECD application in 2007, President George W. Bush strongly advocated for Israel’s acceptance. And, in November of that year, the OECD Council approved the road map to accession for Israel.
Bipartisan leaders in Congress were also outspoken in their support for Israel and played a critical role in its accession.
In 2005, the House of Representatives approved a resolution of support co-authored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the late Tom Lantos (D-CA). Two years later, the Senate unanimously approved a similar resolution, co-authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Norm Coleman (R-MN).
Without the strong American backing, Israel might never have been invited to join the OECD and, as such, would not have had access to many of the benefits that membership provides. BACK TO TOP
How OECD Membership Will Benefit Israel
Membership in the OECD will bring Israel new business opportunities, increased access to international capital and a stronger credit rating.
“This will bring Israel billions,” said Defense Minister Ehud Barak after Israel was admitted.
The ability to access more credit and finance new investment opportunities will help Israel attain its ambitious economic goal, which, according to Netanyahu, “is to climb to the 15 leading economies in the world for their gross national product (GNP).” Israel’s GNP currently ranks 49th in the world.
Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer explained how OECD membership will boost Israel’s economy. “Israel’s joining the OECD will strengthen investors’ confidence with regard to Israel’s economic standing, and is expected to encourage investment in the economy.”
Analysts from major financial firms are already anticipating a strong wave of new investment into Israel as a result. OECD membership affirms Israel’s status as an economic power, a free and democratic nation and presents new opportunities to strengthen and forge relationships with the world’s leading nations. BACK TO TOP