The announcement on 10 May that Israel has been invited to become a member of the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has been interpreted by many as being a “reward” for Israel entering into proximity talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Nothing could be further from the fact.
The OECD decided to open accession discussions with Israel in May 2007. A Roadmap adopted at the end of November 2007 set out the terms, conditions and process for accession, including in-depth reviews by 18 OECD Committees. Israel has completed all 18 accession reviews in under three years.
The OECD will welcome Israel at an event on 27 May. An Accession Agreement - scheduled to be signed in Israel on 29 June - will formally acknowledge Israel’s membership of the OECD.
Today the OECD presently comprises 31 countries - including Canada - committed to providing the best possible education, health and employment opportunities for their citizens.
The admission of Israel to the OECD is a direct blow to those seeking to delegitimize Israel by imposing boycotts, undertaking divestment and attempting to exclude Israel from organizations such as the OECD.
Israel’s already impressive credentials were highlighted by the OECD when announcing:
“The accession reviews of Israel have also been valuable for OECD countries—the OECD has learned from Israel’s experience in certain areas, such as in the policy areas of innovation and scientific and technological policy. Total civilian R&D expenditures were 4.7 % of GDP in 2007, giving Israel the highest R&D intensity in the world. It accounts for the third highest number of scientific articles per million population and has an impressive patenting performance in science and technology. Performance in certain high technology sectors, notably biotechnology, is also particularly strong “
This is remarkable praise and acknowledgment for outstanding achievements in the face of the refusal of the Arab League - with the exception of Egypt and Jordan - to recognise Israel’s existence since its creation 62 years ago.
It is also noteworthy that not one of the 21 member States of the Arab League is a member of the OECD - despite the vast wealth generated from oil revenue in many of those States.
One can only imagine the heights to which Israel would have ascended had not so much of its GDP been squandered on fighting its neighbours and remaining in a constant state of alert by tying up its citizens in compulsory military service.
Significantly the OECD also made the following announcement:
“The question of the geographical scope of statistical data provided by Israel, which include data on the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, was the subject of lengthy discussions within the OECD. A footnote will be included in all OECD documents containing statistical data on Israel stating that the data are supplied by and under the responsibility of the Israeli authorities and that their use by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law. “
The use of the words “international law” is a welcome inclusion and a recognition of the need to abide by and be cognisant of existing international law in any future negotiations on the status of the West Bank.
It is a pity the OECD statement chose not to identify the applicable international law - which includes
(i) the San Remo Conference,
(ii) the Treaty of Sevres,
(iii)the Mandate for Palestine,
(iv) the United Nations Charter and
(v) Security Council Resolution 242.
Under Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter Israel is legally entitled to encourage close settlement by Jews in areas of the West Bank that are State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
The OECD has acknowledged - by omitting any reference to Gaza - that Gaza is an area outside the physical control of Israel . This confirms Israel’s position that it is no longer responsible for - or obligated in any way to look after - the future welfare of Gazan Arabs after its total withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Hamas has governed Gaza since forcefully removing the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Hamas must accept the consequences of that decision and Gazan Arabs the consequences of having elected Hamas. Gaza needs to conduct its future trade, seek freedom of passage and growth through its common border with Egypt and not rely on Israel to provide any of its existing or future needs.
Israel’s admission to the OECD comes at an important time as Israel steels itself to make further concessions to the Palestinian Authority without any meaningful tangible concessions being received in return.
“Goodwill gestures” will be sought by the Obama administration from Israel - as Obama and his administration accelerate into the proximity negotiations.
These will include
(i) the release of more prisoners,
(ii) removal of more checkpoints,
(iii)the extension of full Palestinian Authority civil and security control beyond Area A - the 17% of the West Bank which currently houses 55% of the Arab population of the West Bank - into Area B - which constitutes 24% of the West Bank and 41% of its Arab population where the Palestinian Authority does not presently exercise security control
(iv) Curbs on construction of houses and public facilities for Jews in Area C - the remaining 59% of the West Bank where only 4% of the Arab population lives and where the Palestinian Authority possesses no civil or security control.
It would appear that Obama has effectively given up on Gaza and the two-state solution.
Obama will be happy to achieve some movement in the West Bank concessions that Israel will concede to maintain the relationship it has with America. Not all will be accepted by Israel - especially those that will impact on Israel’s security or hinder or impede its growth.
Whilst this will create the impression of movement - which Israel can probably afford to some degree—it will not lead to a final settlement of the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Jews and Arabs.
However any such concessions will help to ease the current restrictions prevailing on travel and lessen the inconvenience in the daily lives of the West Bank Arab population in moving from one part of the West Bank to another. It will enable the Palestinian Authority to assume full responsibility over an increased majority of the West Bank Arab population.
A new separate Arab State between Jordan and Israel will remain a pipe dream destined to failure. Any progress made in the proximity talks will not help advance the realisation of that goal. The parties will still remain poles apart on the terms that each can agree on to bring the two-state solution to fruition.
In the meantime - Israel will get on with its own nation building and consolidation as a scientific, intellectual and technological powerhouse for others to aspire to and emulate.