Analysis: Is Israel making hay even before the sun shines? – Asks Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, it is often said that desperate situations call for desperate actions. The Cairo-based Asian Review has reported that Israel is working hard to build stronger security and economic ties with China and India, looking to broaden its options as the US, its closest ally, starts to play a smaller role on the world stage. The headline says it all: “Israel pivots to China, India as US influence wanes”.

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Although we are yet to know this report has been endorsed by the Israeli authorities as a true reflection of what they have embarked on, we can take it for what it is and use it for an analysis of issues.

Some few years ago, it was forecast that China would dislodge the United States as the world’s strongest economy by 2025. Then, two years ago, it was brought forward to 2015. Now, the forecast is that that change will rather happen by the end of 2014. Scary for the US and its allies? I have no idea. But I can hazard the guess that as the US budget deficit continues to soar and China soaks up the trillions of Dollars involved, there will be every reason to agree with the forecast that come what may, China will sooner than later overtake the US.

And it won’t do so alone. India is also fast catching up. These are the world’s two most populous countries that have managed to turn the situation around for their own good. They are breathing hot air over the US’ shoulders to the chagrin of the powers that be. Can they prevent the foreboding? Not really because the forces propelling China and India forward can’t be stopped without serious adverse consequences.

So, is Israel being smart enough to put its house in order as the situation develops and unfolds? Probably. With what implications?

Obviously, Israel knows what is at stake and will want to play it fast. As the Asian Review put it, Israel has high hopes for help from Beijing in dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons development. “China has a central role in the efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb,” Israeli President Shimon Peres told Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a trip to China early last month.

That isn’t all. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited China last May, and top defence officials from the two countries have been deepening their ties. These high-profile visits underscore Israel’s aim of improving its diplomatic position in the United Nations by growing closer to China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, according to the Asian Review.

It revealed further that India agreed in February 2014 to work with Israel to devise anti-terrorism measures and develop a missile defense system. Both countries also plan to set up a fund to support joint ventures between technology companies in either country.

Obviously, Israel seems to be gearing itself up to face the new challenges that are virtually exposing the US as out-of-step with contemporary strategies for resolving conflicts or for cooperation with other countries.

Like the way the Asian Review puts it: “the increasingly complex global landscape has created various sources of friction between Washington and its Middle Eastern ally”. Israel’s trade with Beijing has also become a source of discord. But Israel is bent on putting its best foot forward in readiness for future challenges at the military, technological, political, and economic levels, hoping that a rising China and India can serve its purposes.

The compelling reasons for Israel’s choice of China and India are numerous: political, strategic, economic, technological, etc. Of course, China and Israel have been cooperating over the years; but the intensification of ties henceforth will bring about more than has happened so far.

What does Israel hope to gain from aligning with China? Many benefits, as explained in the news report: Israeli exports of high-tech products to China jumped 170% in five years to reach $1.58 billion in 2013. It was reported at the end of last year that advanced missile technology had reached China via Israeli companies.

China is making a huge progress on all fronts. It has its own brand of warships (in fact, the US Secretary for Defence recently toured China and was honoured with a tour of China’s military technology. He must admit silently that China has indeed risen up to prove its worth). Its economy is booming, and it is politically stable. Its advancement into parts of the world, where it is fast grabbing resources to boost its productivity, is yielding good results. The Chinese influence is huge. India too is progressing smoothly, especially in its collaboration with Brazil, Russia, and China.

China doesn’t make so much noise nor does it flex muscles all over the globe. What it is doing in the South China Sea is just a first-time effort to prove to the world that it can also use its powers to defend what it considers as its bona fide asset, damn the anger that it may provoke in neighbouring countries (Vietnam, Japan, etc. that are all laying claim to those assets).

What are the implications for Israel’s turning to China and India? Many, especially for the US-Israeli relations. The US may chafe all it can but it can’t stop the drift. Israel is getting out of its grips and it will have a huge price to pay. The umbilical cord joining Israel to it (which any intelligent observer of international knows) seems to be weakening.

Israel has begun asserting its influence, creating the impression that it may not necessarily be at the beck and call of the US in determining its mood in international issues.

On March 27, 2014, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting Russia’s annexation of Crimea; but Israel abstained, choosing to maintain relations with Moscow, which has significant sway over the course of the war in Syria and the Iran situation, both of which directly affect Israel’s national security. This abstention by Israel reportedly infuriated the White House. But Israel cared less. As reported, a top Israeli defense official told local media that “our security interests should not be defined as identical to that of anyone else, even the US”.

Then again, it is reported that in the 1990s, an Israeli plan to sell surveillance aircraft to China was curtailed by US pressure. As the Asian Review put it, if Israel keeps growing closer to such countries as China and Russia, it could invite interference from Washington again.

The US and Israel have been enjoying a symbiotic relationship all these years. It is often assumed or confirmed that the US’ military industrial complex and economy, generally, depends on the ingenuity of Israeli elements. The Jews are all over the place, doing everything to keep the US afloat whether politically, economically, or otherwise in anticipation of US’ support for the Israeli cause. They do so because either they see the US as a home-away-from-home or because they believe that whatever is good for the US is invariably good for them.

In all that has been happening (especially the Israel-Palestinian conflict), China has remained neutral, even if its votes at the UN General Assembly or Security Council don’t often favour Israel. But the reality dawning now is that Israel stands to gain more by turning to China than by sticking to the US when it stands not to gain as much as expected. The US may not endure the vagaries of economic downturn.

Particularly under Obama, Israel seems to have ground to a halt in its aspirations to assert its influence in Middle East geopolitics and global affairs, generally. The botched resolution of its conflict with the Palestinian leadership and the fact that the UN General Assembly has even recognized Palestine in its bid toward statehood (however limited that recognition may be) is frightening enough for Israel.

The US is barking now more than ever but hasn’t been able to help resolve the conflict despite assurances and half-hearted attempts to do so. Israel must have realized at this stage that it won’t get what it wants if it continues to depend on the US alone. Oftentimes, the US’ interests or manner of doing things even aggravates the problem. The US is known for bullying other states, being abrasive and not pacific, which doesn’t provide opportunities for resolving conflicts amicably.

As Syria continues to burn and the US and its allies balk at doing to it what they had done to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, Israel sees the red light and is advising itself. After all, but for China and Russia, Bashar al-Assad would have belonged to history long ago—to Israel’s relief.

Although the US keeps assuring Israel of its unflinching support, the waning influence of the US in global politics must have forewarned Israel to begin being forearmed to look far afield. And where else to go but the two prominent systems chasing the US out of the way! Obviously, then, the awareness is that empires rise and fall; but when they fall, they never rise back.

Israel is being smart not to fall with an empire but to be in bed with that empire now rising to its supreme global stature. The future beckons and Israel is responding with an unprecedented alacrity. No holds barred; no thought for ideological conflicts.

I shall return…

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