Israel is less peaceful than Syria and Iran, study finds

‘Perhaps in some parallel universe,’ scoffs Foreign Ministry spokesman

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers being sworn in to a religious IDF unit. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox soldiers being sworn in to a religious IDF unit. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

The Global Peace Index ranked Israel as one of the least peaceful countries in the world in an annual study released this week, lower than Iran, Egypt or Syria.

The index, known as the GPI, ranked 158 countries and listed Israel at 150. Only one other Middle Eastern country, Iraq — number 155 — ranked lower.

Israel’s ranking placed it behind Iran, which ranked 128th. Syria, where an estimated 13,000 people have been killed in unrest in the past 15 months, ranked 147th. Egypt was listed at number 111.

Even war-torn Ivory Coast outranked Israel, at number 134. Migrants from the East African nation of Eritrea have been fleeing to Israel by the tens of thousands in recent years, and their country is deemed so dangerous by the UN that they cannot be repatriated, but according to the index their country, at number 122, is significantly more peaceful than Israel.

The United States is ranked 88th.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the report.

“How is it possible that that Israel is a more dangerous place than Syria? Perhaps in some parallel universe, but not in any empirical reality in which real people live,” he told The Times of Israel.

For the second consecutive year, Iceland was ranked as the world’s most peaceful country, and Somalia as the least.

The index is compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which identifies itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization  dedicated to exploring the relationship between peace and economic stability. The group has offices in New York, Sydney, and Washington, DC.

According to the GPI website, a nation’s “peacefulness” is determined based on 23 individual indicators, “ranging from a nation’s level of military expenditure to its relations with neighboring countries and the level of respect for human rights.” The index also takes into account such factors as a nation’s level of democracy, transparency, education and material well-being. It draws its data from sources including the World Bank and various arms of the UN.

Overall, this year’s index determined that for the first time since 2009 the world is more peaceful than the previous year. The study found an improved level of peace in every region except Africa and the Middle East. The study further stated that if the world had been completely peaceful, the economic benefit to the global economy would have been approximately $9 trillion this past year.

The five most peaceful countries, according to the report, are Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. The five least peaceful are Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and the Republic of Congo.

According to the report, despite Israel remaining among the 10 lowest-ranked countries the rating in fact reflects an improvement for the third consecutive year. Israel’s low ranking was influenced by “the volume of imports of major conventional weapons and the number of armed service personnel per head of population.”

The study also cited a rise in Israel’s political instability stemming from “a series of mass protests and industrial action over spiraling food, fuel and housing costs.” As a result, the usually dominant security issue was eclipsed by “demands for economic reforms and even [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s resignation.”

The study also referred to the “mixed picture” presented by Israel’s “societal safety and security.” The lower levels of violent crimes and violent demonstrations are offset by the high likelihood of terrorist attacks and Israel’s continued formal “state of war” with Syria and Lebanon, as well as highly strained “relations with much of the Arab world and Iran.”

The study refers to the violent conflict between Israel and Hamas, but within the detailed list of the 23 indicators used to determine the ranking it was not clear if factors such as political terror and weaponry refer only to Israel proper or to the Palestinian-controlled territories as well.

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