Author:Lancaster, Pat


WAS I DISAPPOINTED THAT THE ORGANISATION FOR Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirmed Israel's membership of the exclusive club of prosperous economies? Absolutely. Was I surprised? Not in the slightest; on the contrary I would have been astonished if the outcome had been any different.

The United States was a strong backer of Israel's successful bid, described by American Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh as representing a "truly historic day" for the organisation, whose activities include compiling statistics and monitoring members' actions in areas from fighting corruption to tax havens and fiscal policy.

Although several OECD members had previously expressed some doubts over Israel's credentials for membership, on both technical grounds and lack of shared values, in the event, the vote to admit the Jewish state was unanimous.

The decision "will contribute to a more plural and open OECD that is playing an increasingly important role in the global economic architecture", commented the organisation's Secretary-General Angel Gurria. And, while the head of Israel's Central Bank, Stanley Fischer, described membership as "an important step towards Israel's integration into the global economy and an expression of the country's commitment to meeting the highest international standards", others were swift to recognise the political dimensions of admission to the 31-member, international 'rich club'.

Avi Shimhon, a professor of economics at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, hit the nail right on the head as far as Israeli popular opinion was concerned: "If there is a cause for celebration, it is not economic, it is political," Simhon noted, adding that, "for a country that is often isolated politically, this could be a good sign that it has been accepted into a league of developed countries."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was right behind that theory; he described acceptance into the OECD as a "seal of approval" that would "open doors and provide access to many areas".

That first phrase alone should strike fear into a million hearts; Mr Netanyahu believes Israel has been awarded a "seal of approval". The head of the government responsible for the continuing degradation, poverty and, all too frequently, the murder of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, thinks the international community has said 'OK' to his regime; even given it a "seal of approval".

But maybe the Israeli prime minister can be...

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