Why Israel and South Korea Are Natural Allies

After World War II, both Israel and South Korea emerged as small, economically backward, newly created states with long histories threatened by large and powerful neighbors who sought their destruction. Since then, both have become advanced democracies with thriving economies, as well as important U.S. allies, even though the threats to their security have remained. They also share a common enemy in North Korea. Efraim Inbar and Jakob Rheins examine these similarities and how they shape relations between the two countries.

While Israel and South Korea are strong military powers, both tried to solve their ongoing regional conflicts peacefully at the end of the last century. Israel tried via the Oslo process, while South Korea practiced the Sunshine Policy toward North Korea. Interestingly, Israel, under Yitzhak Rabin, even tried to change North Korean behavior in the Middle East. These attempts failed. Israel and South Korea remained aware that they must have the military capabilities to deal with their respective conflicts should they intensify.

In 2014, South Korea’s former ambassador to Israel, Lee Gun-Tae, told the visiting Israeli president Reuven Rivlin: “South Korea is probably the only country that can understand Israel’s complicated situation.” Rivlin replied: “Until I came to Seoul, I thought there was only one miracle, Israel, and then I saw what you have done since the 1950s.” Rivlin was the first Israeli president to visit South Korea. He expressed his hope for closer cooperation and bilateral tourism. Indeed, nearly ten years later, the two countries are more intimate than ever.

Interestingly, what also brings the two countries together is the keen South Korean interest in Talmud study. There is widespread appreciation of Jewish intellectual achievements and Talmud—a fundamental Jewish text—has become a popular subject of study and a part of the curriculum in the South Korean education system.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Iran, Israel diplomacy, North Korea, South Korea


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy