Israel’s Diamond Industry Glitters

Israel’s diamond industry has made a better recovery from the world slump than its counterparts abroad, according to Moshe Schnitzer, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange.

Schnitzer, just returned from a meeting of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses in London, said his has “a better record than any other bourse in the world.” Israel has always been a major diamond-polishing center, buying the gems and finishing them either as jewelry or for industrial purposes. Finished diamonds are one of Israel’s major exports.

This year’s exports are running II percent ahead of last year’s, Schnitzer said. Israel’s diamond industry has paid off all of its indebtedness to banks which amounted to a staggering $1.25 billion only three years ago. Now the industry is operating with a lean working capital of no more than $250 million, borrowed from banks.

Its new health and vigor is reflected in a high employment rate. Schnitzer noted that the industry’s work force fell from a peak of 12,000 in 1979 to a low of 3,000 in 1980/81. Now it employs 10,000. In contrast, the U.S. diamond industry which employed 2,500 cutters and polishers at the peak of the boom several years ago, now employs no more than 200.

The diamond industry has political ramifications. Schnitzer said the Ramat Gan Bourse which he heads will continue to oppose the inclusion of the Indian Bourse in the World Federation, not out of fear of competition but because India refuses to have diplomatic relations with Israel and makes it difficult for Israelis to visit India.

CORRECTION

A sentence was inadvertently omitted from Part Two of the series on Israel and the Third World: A New Stage. The sentence said: Several hundred Israelis live in Abijan, almost all of them employes of Sonitra, which operates a Hebrew-speaking school for about 80 Israeli children.

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