The Jewish New Year (5768)
Jews worldwide (especially in Israel—the Jewish state—with the world’s largest concentration of Jews) ushered in the New Year 5768 in mid-September 2007 with the usual prayers and hopes for peace and “a good year.”
It would be a year in which Israel would celebrate the 60th anniversary (in November 2007) of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution which provided for a Jewish State in Palestine and then (in May 2008) the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
By 2006, Israel’s economy had reached a significant level of accomplishment, returning to the robust economic expansion that had characterized Israel before the al-Aqsa intifada. By 2004, investors and businessmen saw the long-term resilience of the Israeli economy despite the absence of peace and continuing terrorist attacks. Israel’s economic recovery became even more firmly based in 2005 as economic growth was bolstered by strong global growth and the sustained improvement in Israel’s security situation.
Israel’s economic growth for 2005 was the highest in the Western world. GDP rose by 5.2 percent and per capita income jumped 3.3 percent. In 2004, it rose by 4.4 percent. other statistics showed similar strength. As if to reflect this situation, in May 2006, in the first cabinet meeting of Israel’s 31st government, Prime Minister Olmert announced that “in distant Nebraska . . . Warren Buffett announced that he was acquiring from the Wertheimer family an 80 percent stake in ISCAR [Israel’s metalworks conglomerate].
This is not just another deal for the Israeli economy; this is one of the biggest investors in the world, who has never invested outside the U.S. before. . . . His decision to invest in an Israeli company, in a country that he has never visited or seen its factories, solely on the basis of the record and on professional opinions, attests—first and foremost—to great confidence in the Israeli economy and in full trust both in its stability and in its great potential.” Israel’s economic advance continued after the Second Lebanon War.
The International Monetary fund concluded that Israel’s positive economic performance in 2007 was due to responsible budgetary and fiscal policies and their “sound implementation.” Israel’s economic growth was also due to strong global growth. The IMF believed that Israel’s economic growth would likely remain strong. The Bank of Israel announced in early February 2008 that there were no signs of an economic recession in 2008 and that data suggested a growth rate of 3.6 percent to 4.4 percent for 2008, a high rate for developed economies.
The Special Relationship
The United States has changed from a power providing limited direct support for Israel to become the world’s only superpower linked to Israel in a free trade area and as a crucial provider of political and diplomatic, moral, and strategic (security) support, as well as economic aid. The complex and multifaceted “special relationship” with the United States originated prior to the independence of Israel when it was grounded primarily in humanitarian concerns, in religious and historical links, and in a moral-emotional-political arena rather than a strategic military one.
The United States is today an indispensable ally. It provides Israel, through one form or another, with economic (governmental and private), technical, military, political, diplomatic, and moral support. It was seen as the ultimate resource against the Soviet Union and a central participant in the campaign against Islamic terrorism; it is the source of Israel’s sophisticated military hardware; it is central to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Israel’s special relationship with the United States—which is based on substantial positive perception and sentiment evident in public opinion and official statements and manifest in political, diplomatic support and in military and economic assistance—has not been enshrined in a formal, legally binding document joining the two states in a formal alliance. Israel has no mutual security treaty with the United States, nor is it a member of any alliance system requiring the United States to take up arms automatically on its behalf.
The U.S. commitment to Israel has taken the form of presidential statements that have reaffirmed the U.S. interest in supporting the political independence and territorial integrity of Israel. on February 1, 2006, President George W. Bush said: “Israel is a solid ally of the United States, we will rise to Israel’s defense if need be.” When asked if he meant that the United States would rise to Israel’s defense militarily, Bush said: “You bet, we’ll defend Israel.”Reflecting the views of his predecessors, in remarks at the American Jewish Committee’s Centennial Dinner, on May 4, 2006, President George W. Bush summed up the relationship in these terms:
My administration shares a strong commitment with the AJC to make sure relations between Israel and America remain strong. We have so much in common. We’re both young countries born of struggle and sacrifice. We’re both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution. We have both established vibrant democracies built on the rule of law and open markets.
We’re both founded on certain basic beliefs, that God watches over the affairs of men, and that freedom is the Almighty God’s gift to every man and woman on the face of this earth. These ties have made us natural allies, and these ties will never be broken. America’s commitment to Israel’s security is strong, enduring, and unshakable.
In an interview in the map room at the White House by Israel’s Channel 2 News on January 6, 2008, President Bush was asked: “. . . is Iran an immediate threat to the existence of Israel?” He responded:First of all, if I were an Israeli, I would take the words of the Iranian president seriously. And as president of the United States, I take him seriously. And I’ve spoken very bluntly about . . . what an attack on Israel would mean. . . . I said that we will defend our ally—no ands, ifs, or buts.