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Cablegate: Global Context Section of the Qddr - Israel


DE RUEHTV #2701/01 3451356
R 111356Z DEC 09



NEA/IPA for Goldberger
S/P for T. Andrews

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Global Context Section of the QDDR - ISRAEL

REFS: A) STATE 120172
B) TEL AVIV 2563

1. Embassy Tel Aviv offers the following responses to queries posed
in ref A regarding the trends in Israel that will most likely affect
the conduct of diplomacy and the execution of development programs
over the next ten to twenty years. The challenges that Israel will
face diplomatically will depend significantly on the progress of
peace efforts and its ability to have normal relations with its
neighbors. Regional conflicts and the supreme need to guard its
security may well be the enduring context of the next decade and
currently color the country's approach to the global questions of
empowerment through technology, relations with rising powers,
resource scarcity and climate change.

Technology as tool for civil society

2. Israel is a fully wired society and technology plays a
significant role in civic life for the majority of its citizens.
Israeli research helped found the internet, and Israeli software
innovations continually help refine it. As home to many internet
and IT research and development centers (Intel, Cisco, Microsoft,
IBM, etc.), the country's economy has a major stake in the high-tech
sector and policymakers are keenly aware of its importance as
competition from other emerging high-tech centers grows. Israelis
are empowered technologically, with nearly 75 percent of citizens
accessing the internet and more cell phones than people. Many NGOs
and civil society groups harness the power of the internet to spread
their message and the government has not obstructed the expansion of
access to social networks and other tools. For example, groups that
support the settler movement as well as the more left-leaning NGOs
like Peace Now both use the internet and text messaging extensively
in their outreach and to mobilize their constituencies. As mobile
devices that can access the internet become cheaper and even more
widespread, private companies, individuals, and groups wishing to
promote themselves or their causes will do so via social networking
tools. When personalized advertising becomes feasible, businesses
will assume a larger role in social networking.

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3. The Israeli government also employs social networking sites.
The MOD, MFA, and IDF are currently connected to social network
tools to varying degrees, with the IDF spokesman's office setting
the pace in these areas with a YouTube site. The Israeli government
sends updates from its official website ( to twitter and the
MFA maintains very active Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flicker
sites. The Israeli President's Office just launched a YouTube site.
All have hosted internet chats and the Israeli Consulate in New
York hosted a twitter based briefing during the Gaza Offensive.
Finally, the current government created a new Ministry to improve
the delivery of government services through the internet. Post is
working closely with the new Ministry to share U.S. best practices
delivering government services via the internet.

Relations with Rising Powers

3. Overall Israeli relations with the rising powers or big emerging
markets like China, India, and Brazil, is forward looking and
positive. The GoI recognizes these countries as major future
markets for Israeli technology exports and engages them with trade
missions and high-level visits. While competition exists and is
likely to grow, for example with India in IT development and
assembly work, where some Israeli firms have invested in production
facilities, the benefits of collaboration with such large economies
are understood by the private sector here. Israeli expertise in dry
land agriculture, agronomic research, and water management
technology is appreciated in Brazil, India and elsewhere in the
developing world. Strong ties of Jews in Israel with those in the
diaspora bring many Israelis in contact with the citizens of BEM
(big emerging markets) countries, and these countries can be a
source of immigration.

4. Israeli relations with key international players are varied and
growing, partly from an effort to counter the influence of perceived
anti-Israeli sentiment, but also the need to develop an appreciation
in these organizations for what the country offers - among them,
democratic values and a vibrant, first-world economy. The country's
drive for OECD membership is evidence of this. Israel is eternally
in quest of support in IOs such as the UN, and cultivates a
plurality of links across many issue areas, although the Israeli
government has only recently begun to recognize that its influence
in international organizations would be enhanced if Israel were to
be perceived to be politically useful to others within those
organizations rather than exclusively focused inward on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Climate Change and Resource Scarcity
5. Israeli's concern with climate change is real, but so too are
its problems in addressing it. With a developed economy and high
standard of living, Israel has a high GHG emissions level comparable
to that of Western European countries (see ref B.) Nonetheless, the
country also has a younger demographic profile and a high GDP growth
rate more like that of developing economies. In combination, these
dynamics project a near doubling of emissions by 2030 without major
policy changes. GoI concern about global warming is genuine for
several reasons. First, the country already struggles with an arid
climate and substandard rainfall. Water and food self-sufficiency
for Israel, a cherished goal in its hostile geopolitical situation,
becomes even harder to attain. Second, a water scarcity due to a
changing global climate aggravates relations with neighboring states
and complicates settlement of the Palestinian issue. Third, the
rise in sea levels, now projected at up to 1.4 meters, would
seriously impact Israel's land area; half of the population lives on
the coast, and any land area lost is critical given that Israel is
smaller than New Jersey.

6. As always, security is the principal concern driving Israeli
policy. Previously simple decisions, however, are now rendered more
complex by interlinked problem. The GoI is acutely aware of the
nation's lack of resources, particularly water, energy and land. To
address its vulnerability from dependence on foreign energy sources
as well as to check the country's CO2 emissions growth, the Cabinet
has endorsed policies aiming to produce 20 percent of its energy
from alternative sources by 2020. Last month, the Prime Minister
spoke of the need for Israel to ultimately free itself from
dependence on energy imported from foreign, hostile sources. At the
same time, the Cabinet is pressing for investment in massive
desalinization facilities to free the country from dependence on
natural fresh water sources. The energy-intensive water objective
will conflict with the energy conservation and CO2 reduction goals,
leading to difficult policy and budgetary decisions in the future.
The GoI also faces a major challenge in returning its education
system to its prior quality, after years of under-investment and
erosion in standards (see ref C.) Israeli leadership knows that in
its resource-poor environment, the country's intellectual capital is
its chief strength. The government hopes that Israeli ingenuity in
technology innovation will address these contradictions.

Backsliding on Democratic values

7. Israel largely stays true to its democratic principles, but
questions of equality and fairness of treatment for local minorities
continues to plague the society. The Arab-Israeli population,
religious minorities, as well as recent immigrants from countries
like Ethiopia, do not fare as well as native-born Jewish Israelis on
many scales - education, earned income, and political
representation. Presumably, equalizing factors, such as the spread
of internet access and technology to these underserved populations,
will facilitate their engagement in Israeli politics. The question
will be what a stronger voice for these minorities portends for the
Israeli political system. We would expect a rise in already
existing tensions between those wanting to see Israel as a liberal
and democratic state with equal citizenship for all, and those who
want to give priority to Israel's Zionist identity as a
fundamentally Jewish state. The implications of demographic shifts
in Israel's constituent ethnic and religious groups are immense.
Regarding the perception of backsliding on democratic values in
other countries, Israel does see it as within its interest to
support democratic developments elsewhere in the world. Israel's
Center for International Cooperation, MASHAV, supports community
development, poverty reduction, and gender equality in several
developing countries.


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