Startup Nation Needs an Internal Tune-up

In Politics by Dan Calic

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The modern nation of Israel was reborn in 1948. This year it will observe its 70th birthday. In honor of this milestone President Trump has made two remarkable decisions. He publically recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Following this he fulfilled a campaign promise by announcing the US will relocate its Embassy to Jerusalem.

Further, it’s been announced the new (temporary) Embassy will open its doors timed with Israel’s 70th birthday. Trump himself may even attend.

The tiny nation of roughly 8 million Jews has had nothing short of a miraculous run during its first 70 years.  Its accomplishments, which include numerous high-tech inventions, surpasses virtually any other nation. For example, the following have been invented in Israel:

  • Flash drive
  • Cell phone
  • Instant Messaging
  • Pentium processor
  • Anti-virus
  • Digital printing
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Waze GPS
  • Whatsapp

These are but a few of its high-tech inventions.

Much More than High-Tech

Beyond high-tech Israel is a world leader in pharmaceutical, medical, science, agriculture, military technology, and more. For example, did you know the drip irrigation system which is saving hundreds of millions of gallons of water worldwide every day is an Israeli invention? Were you aware Israel is the fifth largest arms supplier in the world? With respect to fruits and vegetables Israel is to Europe what California is to the US – the largest supplier. There are numerous lists of Israeli inventions available online.

Other than the US no other country has produced more significant breakthroughs or had a greater impact on what we use in our daily lives than the tiny nation of Israel. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are on record touting Israel’s achievements.

What makes its accomplishments even more incredible is Israel must devote a huge amount of time, resources and personnel 24/7 to defend itself against millions of hostile enemies that are eager to destroy it.

If you go beyond Israel’s borders to Jews in general the accomplishments are even more amazing. For example, 22% of all Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, yet Jews make up a mere .02% of the world’s population. Google and Facebook far and away control information, viewership and ad revenue on the internet. They are two of the world’s most powerful companies. Both were founded by Jews. Take a look at this list of famous Jews and you get the point.  

Domestic Underbelly

There is no question Israel has brought immeasurable benefit to the entire world. It’s almost inconceivable to put this tiny nation of 8 million Jews in the same conversation with the most powerful developed nation on earth-the United States, when it comes to achievements. Personally speaking, I love, support and believe in this miraculous nation. Yet, as painful as it is I have to admit there are domestic issues still facing Israelis which should not be ignored.

For example, how do Israelis get connected to the internet? The number of providers in Israel is very small. Bezeq has owned virtually all wired infrastructure for decades. Other companies have begun to tap into the market, but Bezeq has the vast majority of market share for everything wired, including land based telephone connections.

Yet, Bezeq is typically not the ISP. You must establish an account with a separate ISP, which in certain cases Bezeq can do for you. Your internet connection requires two suppliers – the hardware (Bezeq) and the ISP. Unlike in the US where cable broadband is readily available, generally from a single source, it has very little market share in Israel. Bezeq has a monopoly. Thus, low cost reliable high speed internet is slow in coming to Israelis.

Electricity

Electricity in Israel presents its own challenges. On many occasions during peak usage (winter and summer, due to its limited capacity, the demand on the system is record breaking. Plus, the grid itself has vulnerabilities

Congestion

A routine trip to the grocery store or shopping mall can become exasperating simply finding a parking space. In fact, parking spaces are so hard to find cars, park on sidewalks in almost every city in the country. Sidewalk parking is so common the majority are not ticketed by police.

As for traffic flow itself, two recent studies confirm Israel’s roads are the most congested of any western developed country. Many people just stay home rather than fight the crowded streets and roads.

An additional contributing factor is the traffic signals. In Israel the majority of traffic signals run on timers instead of sensors. This means the time it takes a signal to cycle through red, yellow, green is no different at 5pm in the afternoon, (when traffic is the heaviest) than at 3 am in the morning. Try sitting at a signal at 3 am when the road is empty and wait for the signal to go through its full cycle.  It’s enough to raise the average person’s blood pressure!

Environment

Israel has serious water pollution issues. Fully 20% of its drinking water facilities have been closed due to contamination. Consequently, water boiling becomes necessary on occasion. The problem extends to the beaches as well. Israel’s coast is the single most polluted section of the entire Mediterranean Sea. As a result beach closures have been a problem.

Another issue is air quality. Aggressive action on this important health issue has been slow in coming. This news article lists the major air polluters. The Haifa area has a high rate of cancer as result of pollution from facilities that are located next to residential areas. The problems in the Haifa area also include infant disorders.

Cigarette smoking also affects air quality, especially indoors. While the US adopted no-smoking laws in restaurants decades ago, Israel put them in effect only in 2012.

Israel also scores low on healthcare. Visit any public hospital. Most emergency rooms are so crowded people have to stand due to lack of seating. You can grow old waiting to see a doctor. While Israel is a leader in medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs, statistics show it near the bottom of developed countries with respect to available hospital beds.

Scourge of Corruption

One of the most unsettling problems in Israel is corruption.
Teva, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs is just one recent example among Israeli companies. In another scandal five senior executives of Israel’s National Electric Company were convicted of taking bribes. Sadly however, corruption is not limited to the business sector. It has also plagued numerous elected officials. Moreover, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Moshe Katsav have served prison time. Current PM Netanyahu has been dogged with corruption charges. Even two former Chief Rabbis have been nailed for criminal wrongdoing.

Tune-up Needed

If anyone reading this piece thinks it’s meant to be a smear they couldn’t be more wrong. The fact remains Israel is truly an amazing country, the likes of which has never been seen. No other nation has burst upon the world stage with more impact in a shorter time than Israel. The world has enjoyed tremendous benefits from cutting edge inventions and technologies developed in Israel. No doubt it will continue being a world leader in multiple industries for years to come.

Yet, for all the blessing this tiny nation has poured out to the world, it’s a shame its own people are lacking on quality of life issues and so many are behaving in unscrupulous ways. The entrepreneurs who have enjoyed billions of dollars of wealth selling their inventions to the rest of the world should do more to benefit their own country.

The Startup Nation could use a major tune-up. It’s my hope this piece is seen as a wake-up call. I hope someone is listening….

For more of Dan Calic’s articles visit his Facebook page.


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