Israel – Bash or Emulate? Lessons in Development Performance through Adversity

This latest Brenthurst Discussion Paper Brenthurst Discussion Paper 2011/10, ‘Israel – Bash or Emulate? Lessons in Development Performance through Adversity’, surveys Israel’s impressive economic growth story. 

Authored by the Foundation’s Director, Greg Mills, the Paper finds that there is no single explanation for Israel’s success, although high on the list is its commitment to research and development. Also vital has been the mind-set that living in a rough regional neighbourhood has engendered amongst the population – of robust accountability across society, long-term thinking and a problem-solving ethos. 

Today Israel is not only a world leader in diamond polishing and cutting, but more recently in software, semi-conductors and telecommunications, where the concentration of high-tech start-up industries has given it the monikers ‘Silicon Wadi’ and ‘Start-Up Nation’. In addition, its rapid agro-development in a dry Mediterranean climate has meant that since independence in 1948, Israel’s agricultural output has increased 16-fold, whilst simultaneously decreasing water usage in the industry by 40 per cent in 60 years. 

Assessing why Israel has done so well in economic terms – and certainly by comparison to its neighbours – is typically shaped by one’s view of the region’s history and politics. Nevertheless, this Discussion Paper argues that developing countries would do well not to ignore the many lessons that can be drawn from Israel’s impressive economic progress in the face of stark challenges of security, geography and resources. 

An abridged version of this Discussion Paper was published in the Sunday Times on 13 November 2011.

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