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How India’s Federal System Paved the Way for Reconciliation with Israel

June 30 2017

Until 1992, New Delhi and Jerusalem had no diplomatic relations, primarily because India’s longtime leadership role in the “Non-Aligned Bloc” (a group of loosely pro-Soviet Third World countries) translated into cooperation with the Arab states in their war against Israel. Relations thawed slowly in the following years, but Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu have worked more recently to build a true alliance. Next week, Modi will be the first head of the Indian government to visit the Jewish state. P.R. Kumaraswamy explains how India’s federal system has facilitated better relations:

Over the two decades prior to Modi’s ascent, the prolonged political chilliness in New Delhi drove the Israeli embassy in India to look for greener pastures elsewhere. This is where India’s federal political system came to Israel’s rescue. . . . [Since 1993], visits and contacts between the Indian states and Israel have become an all-party affair, with leaders from a host of national and regional parties actively engaging with Israel. Even Communists who vehemently oppose Israel on the national level do not hesitate to engage with it on the provincial level. . . .

The [national] government [must address] political issues such as the Middle East peace process, the political rights of the Palestinians, and balancing Israel with India’s engagement with the Arab world. The priority of state government, however—irrespective of the party in power—is economic development. . . . Notwithstanding [partisan] ideologies, the states are less concerned about the vagaries of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and periodic upsurges of violence than about economic benefits accruing from closer ties with Israel.

Israel has capitalized on the unique Indian arrangement and expanded its footprint in areas such as agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, water management, public health, combating desertification, waste recycling, and more. . . . The skills and human resources available to Western countries often far outweigh Israel’s, [but] they have not been able to achieve the reach Israel has achieved over 25 years.

Above all, the state-centric approach in India has brought diplomatic dividends to Israel. Indo-Israeli relations, [furthermore], have . . . a practical value in terms of improving the quality of life of ordinary Indians.

Read more at BESA Center

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

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy