Apr 13, 2005 12:20 pm


The political scientist, Asher Arian has just published a new addition of his book Politics in Israel - The second Republic. Though far from hegiography, it includes the following collections of rather impressive facts:

Since independence in 1948, Israel had changed enormously. From a population of 780,000, it had increased by 2003 to 6.6 million.

There were 130,000 students in 1948, compared with 2 million in 2003, as well as 700 university students before the war of independence (one-third were killed in that war) compared with 120,000 in 2003.

Exports amounted to $35 million in 1950 and to $25.6 billion in 2003.

In 1948 less than 6 percent of the Jews of the world lived in Israel; 39 percent did so in 2003.

The percentage of the population with thirteen years or more of formal education jumped from 9 percent in 1960 to 39 percent in 2003 (42 percent for Jews, 22 percent for others).

One-half of one percent of the population lived in housing with three or more persons per room in 1993, compared with 21 percent in 1960; 54 percent of the population lived in housing with one or fewer persons per room in 2002, compared with 7 percent in 1960.

Israel’s gross national product rose from $2.5 billion in 1960 to $122.6 billion in 2003.

The number of tourists arriving jumped from 110,000 in 1960 to 2.4 million in 2000 (before the onset of the intifada).

The number of private cars in Israel increased in that same period from 24,000 to almost 1.5 million in 2002,while the number of telephone subscribers went from 68,000 to 3 million (92 percent of households), with another 2.5 million cell phones, and the number of air passengers grew from 223,000 to 9.6 million in 2000.

Despite all these dramatic changes, Israel’s political system has retained its democratic form, and that is a remarkable achievement on its own. Israel is unique just as any other country is unique. And yet because of its record, it is tempting to declare Israel “truly unique.” Merely by virtue of its membership in the exclusive club of democratic nations (in which parties compete for power in free elections), Israel is in a special category.

In The 1970s and 1980s, when this club shrank until only a couple of dozen countries in the world met the criteria, Israeli democracy persisted—and this in a period in which the defense burden on Israel was unparalleled in other countries, democratic or not. Other countries had large immigrant populations, but proportionate to its size none had absorbed so many immigrants in so short a time as had Israel. When the ranks of the world’s democracies again swelled with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel was one of the older established democracies in the world.

Consequently . . . .

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