India and Israel Share a Strategic Agenda, and the U.S. Can Benefit

Last month, Benjamin Netanyahu paid an official visit to India, reciprocating a summer 2017 visit to Israel by his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. Efraim Inbar explains the geopolitical logic that brings the two countries together, and its significance:

Both [countries] have waged major conventional wars against their neighbors and have experienced low‐intensity conflict and terror, as they are both involved in protracted conflicts characterized by complex ethnic and religious components not always well understood by outsiders. Weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of their rivals.

Both regard parts of the Arab world as hubs for Islamic extremism—a common threat. Moreover, India fears the Pakistani nuclear arsenal might ultimately fall into the hands of Islamic radicals, while Israel sees the mix in Iran of Islamic zeal and nuclear ambitions as an existential threat. The offshoots of Islamic State threaten the stability of Egypt and Jordan—Israel’s neighbors—and are increasingly sources of concern in South and Southeast Asia. . . .

Washington is important for [both] Jerusalem and New Delhi. India, a major player in the international system, has [of late] improved its relations with the U.S. Nevertheless, New Delhi’s links with Jerusalem have the potential to smooth over some of the difficulties in dealing with the U.S. Working with Israel fits into Modi’s plan to deepen relations with the U.S. given the U.S.‐Israel friendship. . . .

Gradually, India has overcome its reservations about security cooperation with Israel— not only on counterterrorism, which preceded the establishment of diplomatic relations and has been conducted away from the public eye. . . . [It is] noteworthy that Modi’s trip to Israel was not “balanced” with a visit to the Palestinian Authority, indicating that India has decoupled its relations with Israel from its historical commitment to the Palestinian issue. India has even occasionally refrained from joining the automatic majority against Israel in international forums.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, India, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, U.S. Foreign policy

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank