We in Israel are deeply honored by your invitation to join the OECD. We see this not only as recognition of what we have already achieved in our economy but as a vote of confidence in achievements yet to come.
Our greatest assets are the brains, drive, ingenuity, and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. They are the reason why Israel is today a global leader in technology and why the world’s leading firms conduct advanced research and development in Israel.

 PM Netanyahu to the OECD on the occasion of Israel's accession

 

(l. to r.) PM of Estonia Andrus Ansip; Finance Min of Chile Felipe Larrain; PM of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu; PM of Italy Silvio Berlusconi; PM of Slovenia Borut Pahor; and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD (Photo: GPO)

I know that everyone here is familiar with the work of Karl Marx. And as representatives of the world’s leading free market economies, you know how wrong Marx was.

Nothing has been more important for our common prosperity than the power of free markets. But I am not sure how many of you are familiar with another famous Marx, Groucho Marx. He was the Jewish-American comedian who once said that he would refuse to join any club who would have him as a member.

Well that Marx was also wrong. We in Israel are deeply honored by your invitation to join the OECD. We see this not only as recognition of what we have already achieved in our economy but as a vote of confidence in achievements yet to come.

Many people are responsible for our being here today. We are very grateful to Secretary General Angel Gurria and the superb professionals who work with him. Secretary Gurria shepherded us brilliantly through this entire process.

I want to thank each and every country that voted for our accession. We deeply appreciate your support. I also want to thank previous Israeli Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers and other Ministers who helped reform Israel’s economy over the years.

The sum total of reforms is never the work of one person or one government. And the need for reforms never ends.

Here with me today are ministers who are helping me continue those reforms today- Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Industry and Trade Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and his deputy minister, Orit Noked. I want to especially thank our Central Bank Governor, Stanley Fischer. Over the years, I made many difficult decisions affecting our economy. But the easiest decision I ever made was asking Stanley Fischer to head our central bank. His service to Israel has been invaluable.

But those who truly deserve the greatest credit for this historic achievement are the citizens of Israel. We are an ancient people who established what is still a young country little more than six decades ago. We possess hardly any natural resources.

Our greatest assets are the brains, drive, ingenuity, and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. They are the reason why Israel is today a global leader in technology and why the world’s leading firms conduct advanced research and development in Israel.

In just 62 years, their enormous talent has made Israel a technological powerhouse with a global impact well beyond its size – in information and electronics, agriculture and water, science and medicine, energy and the environment. I intend to do all I can in the coming years to unleash those talents.

The more we continue to free up Israel’s economy, and the more we continue to remove barriers to competition, the more Israel’s economy will thrive and the more the people of Israel will prosper. The Israeli economy has come a long way, but we have a long way still to go. Our goal is to become within the next decade one of the 15 highest per capita income countries in the world. 

To get there, we have a lot of work to do. We need to reduce the concentration of power in many key sectors of our economy and promote greater competition. We need to significantly increase the percentage of our population in the workforce. And we need to seriously upgrade our educational system and give our children the tools they need to compete in the world.

We know that working in cooperation with OECD countries will help us achieve these goals. By adopting best practices, by abiding by the high standards you set and by learning from your valuable advice, we know that OECD membership will bring enormous benefits to Israel. But we also believe that we have something to offer the OECD. We look forward to sharing with you our expertise – in innovation and R&D, in immigrant absorption, in water conservation and in many other areas. 

The future belongs to those countries with the creativity and dynamism to develop the conceptual products of tomorrow. For advanced economies, the road to adding value in the coming century will be paved by technology. And Israel is well poised for that journey.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Both Karl Marx and Groucho Marx had it wrong. Free markets are not destined to the dustbin of history. They have been and will continue to be the wave of the future. And I can think of few clubs Israel would rather join than this prestigious organization. 

On behalf of my government and the citizens of Israel, we warmly accept your invitation to join the OECD.