This week I return to the subject I alluded to in the last column - my recent trip to Israel, co-sponsored by the American Israeli Friendship League, where I led a mission of U.S. financial industry executives on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Commerce Trade and Finance. It was an absolute thrill to see American businessmen and women, some Jewish and some Christian, become totally immersed in Israel's culture, its economy and, of course, its political and foreign policy.
Readers of my column have grown accustomed to my use of the word "liberalization." Its Latin roots are in openness, hospitality, generosity and the process of freeing up politics and economics. Israel today epitomizes that word. It was founded on the socialist dream of Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, which made the communal kibbutzim the centerpiece of the Israeli economy.
Today, believe it or not, the inventions of and businesses developed on these kibbutzim are being taken public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Talk about taking the capitalist road from a socialist past - it's truly astounding and astonishing.
We met with the new leader of the centrist Kadima Party, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose unequivocal support of the lower tax rates on capital and labor was pushed through the Knesset by the former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Olmert, the former mayor of Jerusalem and now acting prime minister, is unapologetically supportive of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship. But then so is Shimon Peres on the center left and Netanyahu of Likud.
All Israeli leaders speak in progressive tones of fostering and promoting more trade, commerce and investment, not only between the United States and Israel, but also with the moderate Arab states in the region. They all are supportive of the qualified industrial zones (aka free-trade zones) between Israel and Jordan and Israel and Egypt. They look to expand those free-trade zones to other Arab nations who are pragmatic enough to know that when "commerce and trade cross borders, armies don't."
I was impressed mightily that the security wall and fence have virtually stopped the terrorist suicide bombers in their tracks. Work must be done to assure that economies can flourish and communities can be contiguous, but it is demonstrably working.
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