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The Australian Who Convinced India to Give Up Its Hostility toward Israel

Jan. 27 2016

After India gained independence in 1947, its foreign policy centered on efforts to create and lead a bloc of “non-aligned nations” consisting mostly of former European colonies. Animus toward Israel inevitably resulted from this orientation, which was in practice anti-American and pro-Arab. Not until 1992 did the two countries established formal diplomatic ties. The breakthrough, which paved the way for what is now a warm relationship, came after over a decade of behind-the-scene efforts by the Australian Jewish businessman and community leader, Isi Leibler. Suzanne Rutland tells the story:

During a business trip in December 1981, Leibler managed to meet with Indira [Gandhi]. After a five-minute presentation, in which he spoke about Jewish concerns, she responded: “You are politically on dangerous ground here in India. I am under enormous pressure. It is not only Pakistan. I have a potential catastrophe with [Indian] Muslims.”

She then said: “Tell me why the American Jewish-dominated press hates me . . . [and why] Jews concentrate their spite on me as if I were their worst enemy.” She ended by saying that she felt that Israel “hated” her and stressed that she liked Jews. . . .

In November 1991, at the request of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Leibler visited India in the hope of meeting with its prime minister, Narasimha Rao, who had been elected in June 1990. . . . They met on November 21, the first such meeting at this level with a Jewish leader and an Indian prime minister for many years. . . . Rao was much more positive than his predecessors.

After a second meeting a few months later, India announced that it was establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Australia, India, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations