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.

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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy