Israel-India Cooperation Is Here to Stay

Sept. 14 2016

Since Narendra Modi became prime minister of India in 2014, his country’s relationship with Israel has warmed considerably. This development can be credited in part to the rapport between Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu and in part to the generally pro-Israel stance of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP party, which, when previously in power, took steps to reverse New Delhi’s traditional pro-Arab stance. But actually, argues Harry Hoshovsky, the relationship is not dependent on any one party or leader, but is the result of long-term changes:

[I]t was under the leadership of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao [of the long-dominant Indian National Congress (INC)] that India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Given prior Indian hostility or indifference toward Israel, diplomatic normalization was a major shift in Indian foreign policy toward the Middle East. The end of the cold war and the initiation of the Oslo peace process afforded New Delhi the opportunity to recalibrate its engagement with both Israel and the Palestinians. Normalization allowed for increased economic, cultural, and security cooperation between Israel and India, while still allowing [the latter] to advocate on behalf of the Palestinians. . . .

After the BJP lost power in 2004, there were concerns that the INC-led [coalition] might roll back some of the diplomatic gains. These fears proved largely unfounded: the government deepened and broadened India’s relationship with Israel, . . . because of an important ideological shift in India regarding its diplomatic balancing act vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinian Authority: . . . starting in 2004, [India] quietly started to disconnect [its] foreign-policy calculations toward Israel from the vagaries of the peace process.

[In addition], Modi’s anticipated visit to Israel [which will be a first] represents a historic opportunity to accomplish two interconnected foreign-policy objectives. India will demonstrate to its Arab partners that a new era of Indo-Israeli relations is under way. And by establishing a new diplomatic status quo, Modi and the BJP will make it very challenging for the INC or any other political party to reverse it.

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

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank