India Has Finally Acknowledged That Israel Is a Friend Worth Having

Jan. 23 2018

Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to India, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and concluded nine trade deals between the two countries. The visit is just the latest manifestation of the growing alliance between Israel and India, a country that was long hostile to the Jewish state, and refused to have formal diplomatic ties until 1991. To Swapan Dasgupta, New Delhi’s reluctance to improve relations with Jerusalem came from its excessive fear of provoking Muslim rage:

For the longest possible time, Indian diplomacy has run scared of facing the truth over Israel because of the fear of a Muslim backlash at home and recriminations against migrant Indian workers in the Islamic nations of West Asia. Someone had to take the bull by the horn and end this nonsense. The Modi government took the step in 2014, culminating in the Netanyahu visit last week.

There may have been a few angry editorials in the [mostly Muslim] Urdu press, some inflammatory sermons in mosques, an isolated black-flag demonstration or two in some cities, and some snide comments about the hug [with which Modi greeted Netanyahu upon his arrival]. However, in the main, the visit was a spectacular success. If tomorrow India starts making preparations to shift its embassy, now in Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem—as I believe it should—the protests will be insignificant.

The lessons should be obvious. The veto of a handful of activists should not deter governments from doing what is right and what is in the national interest. Fear should never be the reason for inaction.

Israel may be a tiny country, perhaps even equal in size to some of India’s larger parliamentary constituencies. Yet the popular respect it commands is disproportionate to the area it covers on the world map. This may have partly to do with Israel’s status as the custodian of an ancient Jewish civilization and partly with its doughty battle to survive while being surrounded by implacably hostile countries. Israel today epitomizes a gritty determination that is a source of colossal admiration. It is a friend worth having.

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

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