Global Policy Forum

Israel Will Join Economic Group of Developed Nations






By Ethan Bronner

New York Times
May 10, 2010

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 31-country group often seen as an exclusive club of rich countries, voted unanimously on Monday to admit Israel.

Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, and its war in Gaza in late 2008, had drawn strong criticisms from a number of European members, raising the possibility of delays or blocks to its admission to the group, an association of market-oriented democracies that promotes international trade. The decision to accept Israel came despite a letter by the Palestinian Authority asking the O.E.C.D. not to admit Israel.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called a news conference to hail the acceptance as a "seal of approval," saying it would "open doors and provide access to many fields" and increase foreign investment here.

Israel's economy was close to collapse in the 1980s, but because of a series of difficult market-oriented changes it has grown into a technological powerhouse with an annual per capita gross domestic product approaching $30,000, not far from Germany's.

In a statement issued from its Paris headquarters, the O.E.C.D. announced the acceptance of three countries: Israel, Estonia and Slovenia. In saluting their strengths, the statement said that "Israel's scientific and technological policies have produced outstanding outcomes on a world scale."

Earlier this year, the organization's secretary general, Ángel Gurría, was here to discuss several issues, including strengthening laws against bribery in international business, mostly focused on Israel's weapons trade and patent rules involving its large generic drug industry.

Those issues were resolved. But Riad Malki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, sent a letter on Friday to all O.E.C.D. nations expressing "serious reservations" about Israel's membership.

"Israel has acted in complete disregard of O.E.C.D. values during its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory," said the letter, which was provided by the media office of the Palestinian Authority. It added that Israel's blockade of Gaza denied civilians there "the basic human dignity of rebuilding their shattered lives after its devastating December 2008 to January offensive."

The letter also complained about Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying its policies "frustrate our efforts to build a politically, territorially and economically viable Palestinian state on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Israeli and Palestinian officials are starting indirect talks on these issues that are brokered by the Obama administration. Top Israeli financial officials, including Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, had been lobbying O.E.C.D. members with data and assurances regarding Israel's economy and economic practices, saying that membership would help the country improve its transparency and market orientation, while its technological prowess would be helpful to other members.


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