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

 

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East