The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) officially accepted Israel into its ranks Monday as a full-fledged member.
For 20 years at least, Israeli governments have sought to join the organization, which is in fact an exclusive club of the 31 developed industrial countries. Yet we’ve been rejected. With yearning eyes, our former finance ministers, Bank of Israel governors, and prime ministers watched states that are economically inferior to Israel such as Turkey and the Czech Republic accepted into the OECD with open arms, while Israel was not even granted the opportunity to submit an application.
The first obstacle was removed about three years ago. The organization decided to embark on orderly negotiations on bringing Israel in as a member. Ever since then, the Israeli economy had been scrutinized in dozens of meetings by dozens of OECD committees in Israel and in France (the organization’s headquarters is located in Paris.)
Representatives of member states examined Israel closely, usually through critical eyes, looking into its ability to meet the tough acceptance criteria. We were not given any concessions. Towards the end of the hearings, probes, and discussions, OECD economists published two comprehensive volumes about Israel’s economy and social issues.
The organization’s Secretary General, Jose Angel Gurria - a hot-tempered Mexican, a huge friend of Israel, and a personal friend of Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz - brought the publications directly from the presses to Jerusalem at the end of January and presented them to public opinion. In an interview he granted me at the time, he expressed absolute confidence that Israel would be accepted into OECD.
But was all this effort worthwhile? Israel was required to pass new legislation to avert bribery in international transactions, adopt significant legislative changes in the sensitive areas of intellectual property and medical patents, and undertake all sorts of other adjustments and pledges, some of them commensurate with our economy's interests and others less so.
Deep national, global significanceAnd what are we getting in exchange? What will Israel gain from joining this organization, which is no more than a non-binding platform for the exchange of ideas, coordination of statics, and the joint publication of guidelines for desired economic and social policy?
In practical terms, membership in OECD will not affect the lives of Israelis in the foreseeable future. We will not become richer or more sought after because of it. We will not be receiving OECD passports, because there is no such thing. We cannot even be certain that credit rating companies will boost our rating. Greece, for example, is a veteran member of the organization…
Nonetheless, the efforts were certainly worth it. The confirmation of Israel's membership in OECD indicates that the developed world recognizes the fact that we are an industrial, advanced country; a democratic and competitive state that shares the basic values of the wealthy west.
We have been officially brought into the family of developed nations; the top echelons of the global economy. We're in, at the forefront.
Some people compare Israel's acceptance into OECD to our acceptance into the United Nations. On one hand, this is a baseless comparison: By accepting Israel into the UN, most of the world recognized the sovereignty of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel; by including us in OECD, some of the world recognizes that Israel is a developed economy.
On the other hand, for a state that is merely 62-years old, with a population of a mere 7.5 million, and which so many would like to destroy, full membership in OECD is an act with deep national and international significance.
It is for good reason that hostile elements attempted to thwart this move. They realized what it means: This isn't about economics; it's about history.
Indeed, this is a historic moment: Thus far, Israel was the common-law partner of the developed world. From this day on, we are a legal marriage partner. With the exception of peace, this is the zenith of Herzl's vision. It's a great day for Israel.