Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, January 20, 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, January 20, 2010 Photo by OECD(c)
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Reuters
OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in January. Photo by Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Monday Israel's entrance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development saying it was a "seal of approval" which would attract many financial investors.

"Joining [the OECD] is like receiving a university degree," Netanyahu said. "Just as it is significant to have a degree from the Technion, for example, when entering the job market, entering [the OECD] will open doors and provide access to many fields. It's a seal of approval."

Earlier Monday, the 31 members of the OECD unanimously voted in favor of accepting Israel as a member of the group, a senior Jerusalem source said.

In a special press conference, Netanyahu discussed the importance of the admittance into the Paris-based international economic group and noted several economic realities in Israel which the government would focus on improving.

"There is still too much centralization in the private business sector," Netanyahu said of Israel's economy, adding that "we intend to act adamantly to diminish this centralization."

Netanyahu added that Israel was in the worst place in the world regarding bureaucracy, and said that "we are in a category of our own when it comes to bureaucratic complications."

"Our goal is to climb to the 15 leading economies in the world for their gross national product," Netanyahu said.

Israeli officials have said acceptance would be an important stamp of approval for the country's economy, boosting its credit rating and strengthening ties with foreign investors.

Three OECD members - Switzerland, Ireland and Norway – had previously expressed reservations about Israel's membership. They have focused on the settlements, which Israel does not treat as a separate economic entity. All new members require the approval of all 31 members.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed Israel's acceptance into the prestigious economic organization, and said that it was "a stamp of approval for the country's economy and its achievements in technology."

"The resolution was unanimous, despite attempts by anti-Israel entities to prevent the acceptance of Israel into the OECD," Lieberman said in a statement, adding that "the fact that the attempts failed is proof of Israel's solid standing with the international community, and that it is recognized for its achievements, despite the fierce incitement against it in every conceivable arena: political, security or economic."

Foreign Ministry officials earlier said that Palestinians had intensified their efforts to keep Israel out of the organization in recent days, saying that Israel infringes on Palestinians' human rights and violates OECD values.

Israel says Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad called many of the leaders of OECD countries over the past day to argue against Israel's acceptance. One of the Palestinian arguments is that Israel provided false financial data by not separating out the data related to the settlements.

Israel had launched a campaign of its own to bolster support for its membership. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to several other world leaders on the