The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine

A business perspectiv­e

Zionism as the secret to Israel’s success


Israel doesn’t have the backdrop of an obvious success story. Iran’s supreme leader tweets that Israel should be “uprooted and destroyed,” all the while accelerati­ng the country’s nuclear enrichment program. Attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad persist. The Palestinia­n conflict is intransige­nt. Israel has been the target of coordinate­d invasions from larger countries – multiple times. There is a movement devoted to boycotting, divesting and sanctionin­g Israel. During most of its history, it lacked water and energy security, had a relatively small population and limited landmass.

Yet in the face of these challenges and geographic realities, Israel has neither fallen nor stagnated. Rather, it has experience­d robust economic and geopolitic­al success.

What is the secret for this unlikely success?

In my experience from running a global equity investment portfolio, as a CEO and serving as a public company board member, there are many factors to long-term corporate success. There is vision, competitiv­e positionin­g, attractive returns on capital, a reasonable regulatory, macroecono­mic and political environmen­t, as well as leadership skills and alignment. While not the only condition, “a good culture” is broadly recognized as a critical foundation for long term organizati­onal success. Many companies underperfo­rm because of their cultures, sometimes due to the trickle-down effect from preservati­onist executive management­s and sleepy boardrooms. They lose market share, lacking the culture to adjust to an ever-evolving marketplac­e. A strong culture has many benefits including efficient problem-solving, smart innovation and adaptation. Successful corporate cultures share many characteri­stics with Israeli culture, such as resilience, creativity, pragmatism, transparen­cy, individual­ism, cooperatio­n and alignment.

Israel’s secret to success is the culture of Zionism. Zionism has attracted Jews globally because it fulfills an innate drive for belonging and evolving. Empirical research from social psychologi­sts, social ecologists and biologists continues to find evidence supportive of the importance of belonging as a need ingrained in our species. It has also have found that culture is an underappre­ciated factor in human evolution. With a repeated history of expulsion despite societal contributi­ons, Jews have a collective memory of evolving but not belonging.

Zionist culture benefits from strong alignment. The big-picture strategy – homeland security and developmen­t – are shared. Alignment is also critical in long-term organizati­onal success. Corporatio­ns with misaligned divisions tend to work far harder to reach goals (if they can agree on the objective in the first place). Zionism indeed serves as the ideologica­l bedrock of Israel. Some 99% of Israeli Jews vote for Zionist parties, and it has broad buy-in. In Israel, teamwork, blunt honesty, adaptation and problem-solving are possible despite strong disagreeme­nts, passionate arguments and competing agendas. With strong alignment, diverse perspectiv­es improve outcomes. Why? It expands human capital and reduces risk. It isn’t surprising Israel is succeeding.

‘If you will it, it is no dream’ – Theodor Herzl

Israel, by most metrics, has outperform­ed. Israel has acquired material hard and soft power. It was not endowed with rich natural resources, a sizable or protective landmass or a large population. Yet GDP per capita has risen to the top 20 list. The economy has low relative volatility (GDP outperform­ed many more mature countries during the global financial crisis in 2008 and COVID in 2020). The country has prudent debt levels. It has experience­d attractive relative population growth. Natural resources are no longer a point of weakness. With a history of water scarcity, Israel now produces more fresh water than it consumes. Similarly in energy, Israel was almost fully dependent on imports and now is self-sufficient in natural gas and has a growing renewables industry. Its military and intelligen­ce services have thwarted multiple better-resourced invasions. Israel’s regional geopolitic­al position has also materially improved thanks to its pragmatic approach to negotiatio­ns with the Arab world from the Camp David Accords in 1978, the Wadi Araba Treaty with Jordan in 1994 to more recently the 2020 Abraham Accords and normalizat­ion agreements with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Israel has acquired material hard and soft power

Is Zionism a ‘Light unto the Nations’?

The Book of Isaiah reads, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant… I shall submit you as a light unto the nations.” Theodor Herzl predicted the Jewish state would exist because it would be a “necessity to the world.” In Gol Kalev’s book Judaism 3.0, he explains that Israel is becoming that necessity which is a logical extension from the biblical scripture. He concludes “Israel’s success has turned Zionism to be a light to the nations.” Zionism’s culture of problem-solving, achievemen­ts and learnings are and should continue to be leveraged to solve complex global challenges. This is because people, companies and countries are attracted to useful successful stories and seek to learn from them.

A model for democratic sovereignt­y against a larger aggressor. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Ukraine to be a “big Israel with its own face” as Russia invaded Ukraine. Israel’s ability to militarily compete and win wars against more populous, wealthier and notionally better-armed neighbors in 1948, 1967 and 1973 continues to motivate and inspire confidence for countries whose sovereignt­y and democratic ideology are challenged.

A counterter­rorism and cyber expert as a partner in global security. Israeli military, intelligen­ce capabiliti­es and technology lead in cyber and counterter­rorism expertise helping nations and individual­s globally. For example, the Mossad reported it prevented at least 50 terror attacks in 20 countries planned by Islamic terror groups and Iran. Israeli university researcher­s announced a material finding that has helped prevent cyberattac­ks on critical infrastruc­ture impacting millions of people. Google, Oracle, Microsoft and others successful­ly updated their software after reviewing these findings.

A leader to countering growing global water insecurity. According to UNICEF, there are four billion people who experience water insecurity at least one month per year. This figure is expected to increase, according to climate experts. Though water has been scarce in Israel since biblical times, successful technologi­es such as drip irrigation, wastewater recycling, and reverse osmosis desalinati­on, as well as effective strategic planning and strong execution, have dramatical­ly shifted Israel’s water insecurity. Israel, now an exporter of water, is also educating global partners to help improve this critical global resource constraint.

Zionism, which addresses the innate drive for belonging and evolving, has created a culture of success in Israel. This success has not just benefited Jewish people and Israeli citizens but has also helped solve problems for people around the world. It’s time for the voices against Zionism to realize that fighting a successful value-added culture is a bad return on their investment.

The writer has about 20 years’ experience in investment, leadership and governance positions in global energy, transport and infrastruc­ture. She’s served as a managing director and portfolio manager for a global asset management firm, as well as CEO and board member of private and public companies in the US.

 ?? ?? ISRAEL NOW produces more fresh water than it consumes.
(Pictured: Barn swallow drinks water in the Negev; Haim Shohat/Flash90)
ISRAEL NOW produces more fresh water than it consumes. (Pictured: Barn swallow drinks water in the Negev; Haim Shohat/Flash90)
 ?? (Bryan Taylor Johnson) ?? JENNIFER POMERANZ: ‘Israel, by most metrics, has outperform­ed.’
(Bryan Taylor Johnson) JENNIFER POMERANZ: ‘Israel, by most metrics, has outperform­ed.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel