The Pacific Islands Are a Natural Venue for Israeli Diplomatic Outreach

Increasingly, the island nations of the Pacific are becoming a crucial area of competition between the U.S. and China, as seen by Beijing’s recent, and apparently successful, efforts to bring the Solomon Islands into its orbit. Many of these small states also have good relations with the Jewish state, and several have outstanding records of voting with it at the UN. Avi Kumar writes:

This year, Papua New Guinea and Fiji announced that they would establish embassies in Israel. . . . Countries that have voted in Israel’s favor over several resolutions are the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Nauru, [the last of which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital].

President Chaim Herzog was the first Israeli president to officially visit Fiji and Tonga in the 1980s. In 2020, then-president Reuven Rivlin visited the two nations. He would later tell then-Samoan prime minister Susuga Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi that he regretted not having visited his country. The previous year, Samoa and Israel arranged a visa-waiver scheme under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Most Oceanians are now Christian, so they have read biblical stories and are familiar with Jewish history. . . . Over the last two decades, Israeli trade with Papua New Guinea has doubled in volume, with these ties culminating in the creation of the future embassy. Papua is very resource rich. The continent holds deposits of lead, zinc, cobalt, and gold that Israel could import for its industries.

Many Oceanian countries have agriculture-dominated economies, with fishing and production of crops such as coconut and sugar. Israel could import these products and also assist with agricultural innovations. In addition, underutilized crops from the Australian desert that were historically consumed by aboriginals may possibly also be grown in the Negev Desert. . . . Oceanian islands are prone to disasters such as tsunamis and active volcanoes. Israel’s ability to assist with relief—as witnessed during the February 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake—could prove critical.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: China, Israel diplomacy

 

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy