World markets have already anticipated and largely discounted the inevitable; Greece will default on its debts to its Euro-based brothers who have been willing to throw them a lifeline attached to an anvil. Why not just do it and be done with it? Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal have never fit in with the German way of doing things. They need new friends and, coincidentally, so does Israel, which has tried to expand trade with Turkey and Egypt. With friends like those who needs enemies?
Israel has some economic problems including protests about uneven wealth distribution but their unemployment rate is still relatively low at 6%, its tech, military and pharmaceutical industries are booming. Israel is a world leader in alternative energy and has recently discovered a huge gas deposit in its coastal water. Even with so much of GDP committed to military expense, Israel is growing into an economic powerhouse.
Those who invest in the “think tank” in charge in Ankara are about to take a Turkish bath. Cairo will be in economic shambles for a decade, having destroyed its tourism industry. Israel should bale from economic ties to these backward basket cases.
So who has what Israel needs and would want what Israel has to sell? I look to history for the answer and a new economic reality. As far back as the Roman Empire, Mediterranean sensibilities and economics have been incompatible with Germania. The Euro is controlled by modern Germany. I suggest that the former common market of ancient Roman times be re-established among those countries being hurt most by the Euro and German currency leadership. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal should dictate the terms of any repayment of their German and French debts and leave the Euro.
The ancient Latin common market consisted of trade among Greece, Rome, Hispania and Judea as well as Gaul and Egypt. Today, France will have the gall to stick with Germany. The still forming new Egypt, the recently hostile Turkey and all of the Islamist nations will continue to be hostile, unattractive partners and Israel does itself no favor building trade with them. By contrast, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal have shared cultural values with Israel and produce goods and services each needs.
Israel can help form this economic alliance from a position of relative strength. My proposed new Roman union could produce world-class fashion and other luxury goods, medical and military technology, benefit from the rapidly appreciating agricultural production markets and could prosper by jointly marketing travel and tourism. Travel is the world’s largest service industry, employing 260 million people and, when peaceful, the members of a Roman union would have the most desirable travel destinations in the world. I know firsthand. The Med is best, the best food, the best sightseeing, the best weather and the best hosts.
An alliance among Italy, Israel, Greece, Spain and Portugal would also create a better defense network for all. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become a hero of late in the Arab world by doing more than just talking diplomatic smack about Israel and Greece. He has sent his battle ships into Israel’s waters to challenge the Gaza blockade and he has threatened to intervene in the Greek-Turkish dispute on Cypress. Greeks and Turks have hated each other since the Trojan Wars and nothing about that will change. Spain and Portugal destroyed Islamic influence in the Iberian Peninsula 500 years ago but it’s coming back on the installment plan. An alliance with Israel would have the added benefit of discouraging immigration among Islamists who reject modernity.
An orderly default and exit from the Euro by these countries would not be the end of life, as we know it. Argentina defaulted a few years ago and while it shook up world markets and their local economy for while, look at them now. Freed of crushing debts, their economy is booming.
The advantages of free currency exchange ushered in by the Euro could be accomplished by pegging very low exchange rates among the shekel and the re-issued drachma, peseta, lira and escudo by legal agreement. Or they could bring back the Roman denarii as a common currency. Maybe not.
Well, Rome was not built in a day and a common currency is a long way down the road but Israel needs to make these trading partnerships almost as much as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy need them. Malta and Cyprus might also want to join in as well. After a 1600-year hiatus, it may be time to put the band back together.