The Norwegians are coming, the Norwegians are coming
Only a week ago we were discussing how the French were leaving, and then at the beginning of last week we received the good news that the Norwegians were on the way.
The Norwegians are coming. Only a week ago we were discussing how the French were leaving, and then at the beginning of last week we received the good news that the Norwegians were on the way.
The Government Pension Fund - Global, the sovereign wealth fund filled with Norway's oil revenues and the second largest pension fund in the world, has decided to invest 0.25% of its holdings in Israel: half a billion euros. This is more than twice the annual trade between Israel and Norway.
This piece of news is a cool refreshing breeze for the end of a hot, humid July, when we have been hearing only bad news about the global economy.
European and American real estate markets are crashing, and stock markets around the globe have suffered double-digit falls so far this year. U.S. banks are in their worst crisis since the Great Depression.
World inflation is heating up everywhere, and it seems all these global problems are falling on us here in Israel one after the other.
So what's so exciting about Norway's entry into Israeli capital markets? First, the impressive 0.25% allocation from the enormous fund of over 270 billion euros - all based on Norway's oil production.
Sovereign wealth funds tend to operate with an eye on the long term, though in Norway's case there are exceptions relating to ethical issues, which we will get back to later. Therefore, in any case, the money should not be leaving quickly.
Second, the Norwegian fund, if only because of its size, could provide a sign for world markets that if the Norwegians think of Israel as a good investment, then this is a much better recommendation than those of just any analyst or investment manager.
Their investment in our little country provides evidence that the Israeli economy is viewed as stable, flourishing and good enough for the Norwegians, who are thought of as conservative investors.
Third, and this point suggests a sort of ironic note of joy, the Government Pension Fund - Global follows a strict ethical investment policy.
It may make its money from one of the dirtiest and most polluting industries in the world, oil, but Norway has high ethical aspirations that prevent the fund from investing in companies that operate in opposition to its principles.
The fund's first-quarter report contains a page of shame detailing the companies it is not allowed to invest in: "The countries excluded from the investment universe" of the fund include those which manufacture land mines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons.
The list also includes companies who violate human rights or cause environmental harm. Among those firms banned from the fund's investment portfolio are almost all the large defense contractors, and Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer.
We still do not know what Norway is investing in here in Israel. The fund's reports have no details, but it is a safe guess that the money is invested in the stock market and government bonds.
Since the fund has such a strict ethical investment policy, it is possible to view the Norwegian investment as sort of a double stamp of approval for Israel - the country that European nations daily criticize and condemn for its security policies, the country we love to vilify for ignoring the environment and welfare of its citizens, the country that draws constant rebuke from world organizations for its human rights considerations in the territories, and the country where many companies are boycotted around the world for their operations in the territories.
All these countries are the same Israel that is fit and proper for the self-righteous Norwegian ethical investing fund.
So why have the Norwegians come?
Have they heard we removed the fish cages from the Gulf of Eilat? Maybe they have forgotten - or forgiven - us for voting against whaling, the beloved hobby of the environmentally conscious Vikings? Maybe the Norwegians, who threatened in 2006 to boycott Israeli goods, have fallen in love again with our cherry tomatoes?
Maybe the simple fact that the shekel has been one of the world's strongest currencies this year has tempted them to our hot and humid shores.