On Monday India’s prime minister arrived in Israel on a trip that none of his predecessors has ever made. The visit marks a major policy shift in New Delhi, which for many decades had no diplomatic relations whatsoever with the Jewish state. Now the two countries are bound by a lucrative arms trade, agricultural assistance, technological and security cooperation, and ever-growing economic ties. To Walter Russell Mead, this new alliance signifies something even more important:
[T]his is not just a story about a transactional exchange of arms, money, and expertise. It is also about the successful expansion of Israeli diplomacy away from Europe. From the Persian Gulf to Africa to all across Asia, Israeli diplomacy is more active and diversified than ever before.
This is important for many reasons, but fundamentally it reflects a recognition that Israel is not a West European state. Much of Israel’s population consists of refugees from the Arab world, many of whom fled or were driven from their ancestral homes by Arabs enraged and humiliated by Israeli victories in 1949, 1957, and 1967. Others come from parts of Russia that were never part of the West. Israel’s integration into the non-Western world was delayed by Arab hostility. But Arab power is weakening. . .
Westerners who judge Israeli leaders solely by their willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians have long considered Benjamin Netanyahu a frustrating figure and a poor strategist. Frustrating he may be, but Israel’s steady progress in reducing its diplomatic isolation while diversifying its exports on his watch is a significant accomplishment. It’s difficult to think of any Western leaders who have done as much to advance their countries’ interests. The fact that Netanyahu has done more to build Israeli ties with the Third World than Barack Obama managed to achieve for the U.S. is one of the ironies of the modern world.
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