Look Who’s Pivoting to Asia

It’s not the United States. In recent years, trade between Israel and China has boomed, amounting to $10 billion in 2013 and moving beyond military technology to other, more strictly commercial sectors. Diplomatic relations are also flourishing. The benefits of such developments far outweigh the damage done by the tut-tutting of European governments over Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Elliott Abrams writes:

It’s fashionable to say that Israel is increasingly isolated in the world, and people point to resolutions like the one in Sweden “recognizing a Palestinian state” that are passing European parliaments. The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, and it would be a serious problem for Israel if the larger economies—Germany, France, the UK—began to cut commercial ties. But that is not happening yet, and these resolutions are either less than meets the eye (the Spanish resolution calls for recognizing a Palestinian state only when it emerges from bilateral negotiations) or in countries of much less economic significance. In any event, a country whose trade with India and China is growing by leaps and bounds is hard to call “isolated.”

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: China, India, Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations, Israeli economy

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship