11 May 2010
Members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of leading international economies have voted unanimously to invite Israel to join. The 31-member Paris based OECD said Slovenia and Estonia would also be invited to join. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría welcomed the decision as a "new chapter" in the body's history, and Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz hailed it as a "historic success".
The OECD praised Israel's scientific and technological progress as having "produced outstanding outcomes on a world scale". However it has called on Israel to improve education standards, and levels of poverty and inequality - particularly among its ultra-orthodox Jewish communities and the Israeli-Arab minority. The organization said its member countries hoped membership would bring all three new countries "closer to OECD standards in all fields".
“It gives legitimacy to Israel as an advanced and developed country," Steinitz said on public radio. Israel has been one of the best-performing Western economies in recent years, achieving annual growth above 5 percent. The country emerged from the global credit crisis earlier than the US and Europe, allowing its central bank to raise interest rates before any of its counterparts in the current economic cycle. Unemployment stands at 7.4 per cent and is expected to fall, while the economy is forecast to grow by 3.7 per cent this year and 4 per cent in 2011.
On Sunday, Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer accused the Palestinian Authority of trying to derail Israel's application to become an OECD member state. The PA had written to OECD member states, urging them to vote to delay inviting Israel. "Accepting Israel means giving legitimacy to its policies and accepting its aggressive and racist practices against the Palestinian people," the letter signed by Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said. "We view this as very serious and dangerous, because it helps Israel continue to take control of the Palestinian lands and economy, including East Jerusalem and the settlements in the West Bank" the letter said.
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