The news of the completion of Burj Dubai drove me mad. How come some Bedouins, forty years down from riding camels, have built yet another world wonder while we Israelis have…what? Oh, the mini-Israel exhibition, a piece of trash. The only building in the country worthy of mention is Yad Vashem, and even that is bizarrely small. Shall we have an industry besides the Holocaust industry?

And no, Dubai’s great endeavors are not about oil wealth. The emirate pumps meager 80,000 bpd, an amount comparable to the Sinai oilfields, which Israel gave away to Egypt for a piece of paper titled “peace treaty.” And yes, Dubai is actually very smart to incur $80 billion in unserviceable debt, it is the investors who are stupid, and there is never lack of stupid investors. The people who invested for years in Bernie Madoff’s obviously fraudulent schemes are not in a position to preach business morality. Also consider that America built itself by milking European investors through stock market bubbles and crushes: the money entered the American economy, never to be repaid. Or, for something more official and closer to home, you may have heard about Mossad’s “power plant” scam in Bangladesh, which netted the security service upwards of half a billion dollars.

Dubai’s type of luxurious mega-project is not necessarily economically inefficient, but luxurious goods only thrive in booming markets. The Palm Island’s villas were sold in advance, though hotels there had little chance for full occupancy. It boils down to hype: if the destination is sufficiently fashionable, both buyers and investors will flock to it. Israel has many qualities that could enable it to become such a fashionable destination: it’s close to Europe, yet exotic; its climate is hot, yet sufficiently mild most of the year; salaries are low enough to offer economic opportunities to investors, but people possess substantial work ethics; all parts of the country are close to its airport and seaports, yet there are many secluded retreats, and the population is interesting and friendly. Only two things are lacking: a business-friendly government and a perception of security. In the Emirates, business friendliness is staggering. It is not only about a tax-free environment, but the government’s policy of going an extra ten miles to help businesses. Once you’re well-connected—and you have to be for any large project—there is no red tape whatsoever. That situation is changing slowly for the worse as the country acquires its own bureaucracy, but any upper-level decision can still be pushed through very quickly. This friendliness is not only enjoyed by big businesses. It is customary for the top manager of a free zone to call his tenants once in a while to see if they need any help, even with such matters as visas for their employees or government contacts for their owners. New factories are welcome: all permits in free zones are issued within days, electricity substations are installed the next day, and sea containers often cleared through port and customs within one hour.

Jews are very good at nearly everything they do. When they embarked on creating a bureaucracy, they created the best bureaucracy in the world, one which small entrepreneurs find Kafka-esque, and which even large investors overcome only with great difficulty. Did we have to abandon Jericho to build a casino there? What was wrong with building casinos in Israel?

I visited a friend in Egypt once, and returned eight months later. On the second visit, I saw a new building at his factory. He was surprised when I told him that eight months in Israel isn’t even long enough to get a building permit. Why do we need building permits? Once a certified architect has signed the project documentation, who is some government official to second-guess him? Why should there be zoning for commercial construction? The land owner has a strong economic interest in not offending neighborhood sensibilities because he depends on his neighbors for sales. Why can agricultural land not be used for construction, why is subsidized, grossly inefficient agriculture more important to society than inexpensive housing?

The great numbers of Israelis who emigrate to developed countries do so not because of the downfall of Zionist values in the Jewish state; they won’t find more Jewish values in Canada. Rather, they are making the simple and eminently sensible human decision not to waste their lives. If purchasing-power-parity wages in American hi-tech are five times higher than in Israel, that means that an Israeli immigrant to the United States earns in one day what he used to earn in a week. If one can work only on Thursday, why he should work Sunday to Wednesday as well, for the same money?

There is no cure for Israel’s economic problems short of abandoning all permits, banning trade unions, and delegitimizing monopolies. Then Israel would be a great country for any activity.

We should give the United States back its two billion dollars in aid, and sell our own perfectly good weapons to whoever asks for them. We don’t care who kills whom with what; if not with our weapons, they would be killing each other with Russian ones. Any dictator is welcome to shop for the best bombs here. Any revolutionary movement heavy on blood diamonds is welcome to receive top-notch training here. This is the best peripheral strategy, the best way to befriend governments and gain their support in the UN. We would be able to do anything to the Arabs without the least fear of sanctions: our best export markets, the rogue ones, wouldn’t care about UN policies. Moreover, we would make many good friends among Muslims. Israel was very, very close to establishing excellent working relations with the ayatollahs on two separate occasions after the revolution, when we supplied them with weapons. Our stupid government sent Iran faulty arms in addition to expired American rockets, which we transshipped to them. Israel has refused opportunities to cooperate with several significant subversive movements in Arab countries, movements which had a significant chance of coming to power. Would that set us on a collision course with America? Unlikely, since the Americans often support the same rogue regimes they don’t want us to sell weapons to. Even if America were to protest, Israel could always switch to buying Russian weapons, which would also be a reliable way to stop Russia from selling weapons to Arabs.

Israel must pick up the fallen banner of bank secrecy from Switzerland, which is repealing many of its formerly famous bank protections. It started by disclosing accounts in corruption and money-laundering cases (and how many large accounts are not related to corruption?), and wound up turning over tax evaders to the United States. The only reason the US has the power to pressure Swiss banks is because they conduct vast activities in America. Insular Israeli banks are objectively not susceptible to such pressure, although many have complied with American rules preemptively. Jewish people enjoy a good reputation in the financial sphere, and foreign tax evaders would be glad to keep their money in Israeli banks. Corruption and money-laundering transactions are slightly more difficult because FATF sanctions can paralyze foreign transfers by Israeli banks. Two solutions exist. The harsh solution is to disregard FATF and conduct questionable transactions in the currencies of less picky countries, such as yuan. A milder solution would nominally ban the dirty money, but require an Israeli court’s decision for every account’s disclosure. A special branch of courts must be created for such cases, and with sufficient laxity toward the proceeding and exceedingly rigorous standards of proof, the account holders can be given practical impunity. Why, indeed, should we care if a Russian official obtained his fortune through corruption, if he stores his money with us?

Israel makes a better and potentially safer transshipment point for Middle Eastern oil to the Mediterranean than Syria or Turkey. That, of course, is contingent on the Israeli government finally settling things with the Arabs. And why not? Good business requires excellent security. The Arabs have long been eager to finish their confrontation with Israel: it used to be a vent for domestic radicals, but has now become a rallying point for them. The Saudis would be only too happy to sign a treaty with Israel. Even Iran would be politically unable to resist normalization if a Palestinian government were to reach an agreement with Israel. Iran and its clients Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq continue to oppose peace with Israel, but investors won’t put much stock in the positions of rogue states. In Western media and to the Western investor’s mind, the bulk of Israeli insecurity caused by the Palestinians. That, of course, is untrue: terrorists do not inflict on us nearly as much damage as traffic accidents, but the image persists. Israel need not agree with the Palestinians on everything: it would be enough to withdraw behind borders which we consider acceptable. Just as with Gaza, the Western public will see the message of Israeli withdrawal and fail to understand the concomitant complications. True, Hamas will quickly take over the West Bank, though probably not through elections, since the Islamic movement has lost its popularity even in Gaza. But Hamas has already seen our response to rocket barrages, and won’t be eager to repeat the experience for years to come. On the contrary, the 2009 Gaza war will attain mythical proportions in Arab folklore, and discourage massive terrorism against Israel.

Security issues are simple if we realize that the economy comes first.