Scribblings: Happy at 73
Apr 27, 2021 | Tzvi Fleischer
On this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day – on April 14, the citizens and supporters of the Jewish state had a lot to celebrate despite the painful and exasperating two-year political deadlock in Jerusalem. For instance:
- Being the first nation in the world to vaccinate its way out of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Being a “start-up nation” whose economy has performed well for two decades and is roaring back after repeated lockdowns.
- At long last being accepted by more and more regional neighbours, with immense economic and tourism opportunities opening up as a result.
- Being on the road to becoming a major energy producer, thanks to offshore gas, with plans to use this resource bonanza both to benefit the country economically and to build new mutually-beneficial ties with neighbours like Jordan and Egypt, as well as new partners in the Mediterranean and Europe.
Yet great as all this undoubtedly is, in my view, the bigger picture of Israel’s 73 year success story lies in some numbers illustrating how Israelis feel about their society and what it offers them:
- Israel ranks high in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Life Satisfaction index, 7.2 out of 10, compared to an OECD average of 6.5. This is 11th out of all 39 OECD countries, comparable to Australia, which scored 7.3 and finished just ahead of Israel in 10th place.
- According to another index, Israel is 12th in the UN’s 2021 World Happiness Report, based on surveys of people’s life satisfaction. Australia was one spot higher at 11th.
- Israel ranks high in OECD ratings with respect to health care – fourth out of the 39 countries listed. Israel is just behind Australia, in third place. In addition, Israel is seventh in overall life expectancy, just ahead of Australia in eighth place, and fifth in self-reported health satisfaction, just behind Australia in fourth place.
- While Israel does not rank particularly high globally in primary and secondary education, it does especially well in terms of tertiary education. Israel ranks second among OECD countries (tied with Japan and just after Canada) for the percentage of 25-64 year-olds that have completed tertiary education: 46% compared with an OECD average of 32%.
- Israel ranks consistently high in measures of intergenerational mobility – meaning an individual’s wellbeing is less dependent on the socioeconomic status of his or her parents. One survey places Israel fifth in the world in such mobility.
The fact that Israel is a pretty good place to live is also reflected in emigration rates – which have been falling rapidly over recent years. According to one study, in 1990, the rate of those leaving Israel was 5.3 people per 1,000. In 2000, it dropped to 4.2 per 1,000. By 2017 it stood at about 1.6 per 1,000, a massive fall in just a couple of decades. This is much lower than Australia, where more than 11 Australians out of a thousand migrated overseas in 2018.
And let’s remember, Israel is a tiny and potentially vulnerable country, often under threat, often subject to violence, and requiring the majority of its citizens to serve in the armed forces. There are lots of potential reasons to want to leave if life is not satisfying.
But both through surveys and through their actions, Israelis are clearly saying that Israel is a society which does very well in satisfying the material, cultural and social needs of its citizens.
That is not say there are not huge problems – there are. The current ongoing political stalemate is one giant reminder of some of them.
But the 73-year old project of building a Jewish state is clearly a success on this most important level. Israel is not only thriving economically; it also offers a unique, vibrant culture, serves as a centre for the Jewish people globally, and offers its citizens a society which is a great place to live, overall. That is a source of Israel’s strength as a country, but should also be a source of immense pride for anyone who helped in the Zionist project of creating this unique Jewish homeland.
Logo No Go
As readers may be aware, the Palestinians are due to have a parliamentary election on May 22, followed by a presidential election in late July.
But here’s something worrying that the NGO Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) noticed about the election campaign: almost all of the main parties running for the Palestinian Legislative Council have logos which erase Israel from existence and replace it with “Palestine”.
Eleven of the 36 party lists registered in the election use maps of “Palestine” replacing all of Israel in their logos, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party; Hamas; the Future party affiliated with Fatah defector Mohammed Dahlan; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and numerous independent party lists.
Furthermore, many of the party logos feature symbols of violence – Fatah’s logo includes two guns and a grenade, while several other party’s logos feature clenched fists.
It seems that peaceful coexistence with Israel is not an idea that gets votes in Palestinian politics – and voters are instead drawn to implicit calls for Israel to be replaced with “Palestine”.
This reality in Palestinian political culture goes a long way toward explaining why a two-state peace has been so hard to achieve.