On Tuesday, the US-based credit rating agency Fitch placed Israel’s A+ sovereign credit score on rating watch negative in response to the geopolitical risks emanating from the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Fitch’s decision to monitor the situation reflects the concern that the conflict could escalate and involve multiple actors over an extended period.
If hostilities continue to expand, in addition to the tragic loss of human life, it could lead to significant increases in military spending, the destruction of critical infrastructure, and a sustained decline in consumer and investor confidence. Fitch believes that these factors would ultimately have a detrimental impact on Israel’s credit metrics.
Despite this negative watch, Fitch acknowledges several key strengths that may help mitigate the potential damage. Israel’s dynamic and high-value-added economy, along with its track record of resilience during regional conflicts, preparedness for military confrontations, and solid fiscal and external metrics, all suggest that a relatively short conflict confined to Gaza is unlikely to affect Israel’s credit rating.
It is worth noting that Israel has never experienced a downgrade from Fitch or other international rating agencies such as S&P Global and Moody’s. However, Moody’s did issue a warning last week, stating that a protracted conflict could pose risks to the country’s credit rating.
The conflict in Gaza has drawn attention from both financial markets and rating agencies due to the potential economic consequences. As violence and unrest continue, concerns about the stability of Israel’s financial system and economic growth prospects have emerged.
Financial experts argue that a prolonged conflict could lead to significant fiscal challenges for Israel. The government would likely need to divert more resources toward defense spending, impacting other critical areas such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.
Furthermore, the destruction of vital infrastructure, including power plants, roads, and telecommunications networks, would require substantial investment to rebuild. This would place additional strains on already stretched government finances and hinder economic recovery in the aftermath of the conflict.
The conflict’s impact on consumer and investor confidence is another area of concern. Both domestic and international investors may become hesitant to make long-term commitments or investments in the Israeli economy due to the instability and uncertainty surrounding the conflict. This could lead to a decline in foreign direct investment and hamper Israel’s efforts to attract international businesses and spur economic growth.
While the immediate focus lies on the humanitarian and security aspects of the ongoing conflict, the potential economic consequences cannot be ignored. The rating watch negative by Fitch serves as a reminder that an extended conflict could have far-reaching implications for Israel’s financial stability and development.
As the conflict persists, it is crucial for Israeli policymakers to carefully manage the economic fallout and work towards de-escalation. Finding a long-term resolution that ensures peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians will be critical not only for geopolitical stability but also for safeguarding Israel’s economic prospects in the years to come.