Friday, May 09, 2014
Israeli ties compromise Asian support to Arabs
By Nicola Nasser*
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official visit to
11-15 is not an historic breakthrough per se in bilateral relations that date
back to 1952. Japan
Neither is the normalization of relations in “a matter of weeks” between Israel and Turkey, which was the first major Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel in 1949, as promised by the Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on last April 27.
However both events should highlight the historic breakthrough
Israel has discreetly and quietly achieved in
pivoting to Asia, once an Arab reservoir of support in their conflict with Israel over . Palestine
“For the first time, in 2014, , pushing it from second to third place (behind the EU),” director of the Foreign Trade Administration at Israel’s Ministry of the Economy, Ohad Cohen, was quoted as saying by Israeli “Globes” on April 27.
While opening more trade attaché offices in Asia, the Israeli Ministry of the Economy has closed a number of European trade offices in
Hungary, Finland and “in order to ,” Cohen
“Today we have five offices in
China, three in India,
and we have added attaché in
and an office in Vietnam Manila,” he added.
While Obama was trying to forge a US-Asian counterbalance to China in what Chinese commentators described as “Cold War mentality,” Israel was courting the emerging Chinese economic superpower as well as India, which the World Bank on last April 29 reported it had overtaken Japan as the world’s third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
“‘Pivot to Asia’ is a term that might be applied to
,” wrote in The New York Times on April 24,
citing a boom in its trade with Israel China
to more than $8 billion in 2013. Israel’s military and technological cooperation
with China had once created
a crisis in the
- Israeli relations. U.S.
Cohen noted that while the
Europe continue to “huff and puff” about the illegal Israeli colonial
settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank “ Asia
does business. India has
already bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for a missile-intercept system and
communications equipment from .” Israel
According to the web site of the embassy of India in Cairo, Egypt, “Much of our external trade passes along the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” all almost exclusively Arab sea routes, and “Our total bilateral trade with the Arab countries is over US$ 110 billion and the region is home to 4.5 million Indians and caters to 70% of our energy imports.”
Indian Defence Minister Shri A.K. Antony told the 15th Asian Security Conference in February last year that “West Asia is a critical region” for India and the “Gulf region is vital for India’s energy security.”
During 2011 to 2012, India’s trade with the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was more than U.S. $145 billion (with exports and imports from the region standing at 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively), Antony said.
The “links” with
West Asia “have got deepened and
further strengthened in the era of globalization.” Former Prime Minister of India’s Special Envoy to West Asia, Chinmaya R.
Gharikhan, was on record to attribute the Indian economy growth at more than 8%
to India’s “dependence” for
70% of its energy needs on West Asia.
Former Indian ambassador to
UAE and Saudi Arabia, Talmiz
Ahmad, on last December 29, wrote in Deccan Chronicle: “The security and
stability of the Gulf and West Asia are
crucial for the long-term interests of the Asian countries. This calls for a
review of the Asian security role in the Gulf.”
Yet, despite these vital Indian – Arab relations,
is now the largest customer of the military equipment, the largest military
partner and the largest Asian economic partner of Arabs’ arch enemy, . Israel
Such Indian and Chinese exchanges with
have neutralized Asian pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian influence or at least
created a contradiction between Asia’s
economic dealings and its verbal political speech.
These Asian-Israeli exchanges deprived
of an influential incentive
for making peace. They should have been at least postponed as an Asian prize
for ending the Israeli military occupation of Arab lands in Israel Palestine,
Syria and . Lebanon
Until peace is made with Arabs and Palestinians in particular,
will continue to
be the main destabilizing factor in the region. Israel
Even then, it will continue to consider itself an integral part of western culture and strategy and to be a western influence doing its best to make the region a free market for western interests and a strategic monopoly of western powers.
Adding to the
empowerment of the Hebrew state by bolstering its strategic power will only
bolster a formidable obstacle to peace in the region. US
Writing in Forbes on May 14 last year, professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the
of Denver, Jonathan Adelman, and the
acting executive director for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), Asaf Romirowsky, had a controversial explanation of Israel’s breakthrough in Asia:
Historically, “Asia largely lacks the anti-Semitism that was so prominent in Europe” and “
Israel was like most Asian states … a new state
born after World War II after a struggle with a Western colonial power, in this
they said. Great Britain
Israel is in West Asia, only four hours by air
from India and 11 hours by
air from . China
Israel’s rapid transition from Third World power
to First World ‘start-up nation’ echoes the great transformation underway in
such Asian countries as India,
and the Four Tigers. China
has emerged as a high-tech superpower, thereby very attractive to Asian high
tech powers. Israel
“Militarily, the Israeli military, a world leader in anti-missile technology (Iron Dome) … is attractive to Asian countries developing their own militaries.
“Politically, the growing threat of Islamism draws many of Asian countries towards a country that is in the forefront of fighting this threat.”
In intelligence matters, Israeli “Mossad, with its strong human intelligence capabilities, is attractive for helping these countries overcome foreign threats.”
Adelman and Romirowsky sound like labouring to produce an academic commercial to “sell”
Israel to Asia.
Ironically both of them had nothing to say about
being promoted mainly by its US
strategic sponsor as “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Israel was not born after a struggle with the
colonial power of but was imposed by this colonial
power by force on the region and born after military ongoing ethnic cleansing
of the native Arab Palestinians of the land. Great
Militarily, the anti-missile Iron Dome technology has not proved a success in three Israeli wars on Gaza Strip and
since 2006. Lebanon
Politically, the Israeli logistical support of the most extreme among the Islamist insurgents who are fighting against the government of
doesn’t vindicate that
is “in the forefront of fighting” their threat. Israel
Taking the wrong side
The argument that Mossad is attractive for helping Asian countries overcome their threat deserves more elaboration.
The fact that the Muslim population in Asia is almost double that of the Arab countries combined is a factor that could potentially create a cultural bridge for more interaction between the overwhelmingly Arab West Asia and its mother continent, but nonetheless there is a worrying negative side.
The rise of Islamist extremism could make use of this cultural bridge as well, but the Israeli occupying power is making the best use of it by exploiting this threat to cement its intelligence ties with
But these extremists are at war with the Arabs and not with
was so far safe from their threat not because of its defence capabilities
against them, but because it was not and is still not targeted by them. Israel
Of course Asia could not idly watch the rise of Islamist extremism and could not avoid taking sides and embark on a defensive battle against it outside its borders otherwise it will be risking fighting this evil within its own borders sooner or later.
Asia seems to take the wrong side. The Israeli
occupying power is not Asia’s best ally to preempt this threat, but
the Arabs who have gained enough intelligence about them and enough experience
in fighting them from Morocco in the far west of the Arab world to Iraq in the
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. An edited version of this article was first published by Middle East Eye. (firstname.lastname@example.org)