How Japan and Israel Can Strengthen Their Alliance, and Why They Should

Unlike so many other countries that were slow to engage diplomatically with the Jewish state, Tokyo established bilateral relations with Jerusalem in 1953. More recently, formal ties have blossomed into something of an alliance, based on factors that are growing ever more important: both are closely aligned with the U.S. and located in strategically sensitive areas; the thaw in Israel’s conflict with the Arab world means that Japan no longer need fear collaboration with Israel will endanger its access to fossil fuels; and the two countries have complementary economic interests. Abraham Cooper and Kinue Tokudome explain the barriers to even closer relations between these “two unique democracies,” how can they can be overcome, and why they should be:

A few months ago, we published an op-ed piece in Japan, calling for Japan’s boycott of the 20th anniversary of the anti-Israel Durban Conference. Disappointingly, Japan went on to attend this anniversary event of the hate-filled anti-Semitic conference, rather than joining 37 major countries, including all other G7 members, that boycotted it. . . . Japan also provides direct aid to the Palestinian Authority while failing to condemn openly its “martyrs’ fund,” which provides monthly stipends to Palestinians who commit acts of terrorism against Israel and to the families of deceased terrorists. [Moreover], Japan maintains a “historically friendly relationship” with Iran.

But the good news is that Japanese and Israeli joint business ventures are at an all-time high. Israel is no longer a distant unfamiliar place to Japan but a true partner in the economic sphere. With shared democratic values and tech-driven economies, there’s much to be gained by forming a strong alliance between the two countries, or even one including the U.S.

However, if Japan sincerely wants to form such an alliance, we believe the Japanese government must show that Japan indeed shares the same values as Israel and the U.S. Otherwise, it appears Japan only wants to gain economic advantage, while politically it continues to act in ways that directly threaten Israel’s very existence.

Finally, it is our belief that the two governments can work closely to deepen and to expand the Abraham Accords across the Arab/Muslim world and beyond. Such efforts will also advance Japan’s foremost diplomatic policy, “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”—given the traditionally close relations between Israel and Australia and the recently flourishing one between Israel and India.

Read more at JNS

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Japan


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount