PIVOT TO ASIA: ISRAEL— “INNOVATION HUB OF THE WORLD” —BOLSTERS TIES WITH INDIA, CHINA, JAPAN, LESSENING DEPENDENCE ON WEST

Israel Strengthens Asia Links as European Ties Fray: Frida Ghitis, World Politics Review, Jan. 21, 2016 — Relations between Israel and major Western countries have become increasingly contentious in recent years, owing largely to disagreements over Israel’s approach to its conflict with the Palestinians.

China, Israel Embraces Golden Age for Innovation Cooperation: Song Miou, Xinhuanet News, Jan. 6, 2016— A buzz filled the auditorium as a drone hovered over the heads of hundreds of businessmen attending the China-Israel trade summit in Beijing.

Why India Is Getting Serious About Its Relationship With Israel: Harsh V. Pant, The Diplomat, Jan. 26, 2016— In recent days, India has reached out to its Middle Eastern partners in a major way.

A Roving Ambassador: Suzanne D. Rutland, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2016 — “One day India may discover that her one-sided orientation in the Middle East is neither moral nor expedient.”

 

On Topic Links

 

India’s Foreign Minister a ‘Personal Advocate’ for Strong Ties With Israel: Bradley Martin, JNS, Jan. 20, 2016

India Successfully Tests Missile System Developed With Israel: Times of Israel, Dec. 30, 2015

President Xi Targets Energy, Stability During Debut Middle East Foray: Jeremy Koh, Channel News Asia, Jan. 20, 2016

Latest China Stock Crash Spotlights Urgent Need for Financial Reform: Francesco Sisci, Asia Times, Jan. 5, 2016

 

                  

 

ISRAEL STRENGTHENS ASIA LINKS AS EUROPEAN TIES FRAY      

Frida Ghitis                                                                                   

World Politics Review, Jan. 21, 2016

 

Relations between Israel and major Western countries have become increasingly contentious in recent years, owing largely to disagreements over Israel’s approach to its conflict with the Palestinians. Ties with the U.S. and Europe remain of paramount importance to Israel. But the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a concerted effort to look toward major Asian countries, if not to replace Israel’s traditional European connections, then at least to lessen the country’s diplomatic and economic dependence on the West.

 

The refocused efforts have started yielding results, most notably in transforming relations with India, China and Japan. To be sure, Israel sees itself as a Western country, one whose culture and values align more closely with the West than the East. But, it also sees itself as a unique state, facing some challenges that are best understood in the East.  The most dramatic and profound change has occurred with India, particularly since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014. Modi and Netanyahu, by all accounts, have developed a strong personal connection, and they have done so very publicly, which is a dramatic change from the two countries’ history of bilateral links.

 

India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, who completed a visit to Israel last week, declared that “India attaches the highest importance” to developing the full range of ties with Israel. While reaffirming India’s continuing support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, she spoke of enormous potential for expanded links with Israel. Her visit came just a few months after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian head of state to visit the country. Prime Minister Modi is expected in Jerusalem later this year, and Mukherjee extended an invitation for Netanyahu to visit India.

 

The old joke in Israel was that India treated Israel as its mistress: Their relationship was intimate, but never in public. New Delhi bought billions of dollars of Israeli goods, mostly weapons, and had all manner of deep connections with the country, but on the surface remained cold and distant. That’s not an altogether unfamiliar position for Israel, which has quiet ties with many countries that publicly shun and criticize it, including many Arab states. That makes the changes with India particularly gratifying.

 

Since Modi became prime minister, India is no longer bashful about its ties to Israel. Modi and Netanyahu even proclaim their friendship over social media. When Netanyahu won re-election last year, Modi congratulated him in Hebrew via Twitter. In a separate Tweet, he said it in English for all the world to see. “Mazel Tov, my friend Bibi @Netanyahu,” he wrote. “I remember our meeting in New York last September warmly.” Indians and Israelis, and their respective leaders, see their two countries as having much in common. Both are home to lively democracies in regions where democracy remains fragile, in the case of South Asia, or uncommon, in the case of the Middle East; both face active hostility from Muslim states and Islamist militants; and both view their economies as engines of innovation.

 

While reinvigorated exchanges with China and Japan have focused mostly on expanding economic activity, Israel’s links with New Delhi amount to a full embrace. The newfound boost to ties is not just about technological exchanges and expanded trade, even if those areas have grown at a striking pace. It is also about diplomacy, an area in which Israel is in dire need of international support. Last July, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, India refrained from siding with the Arab bloc in a major anti-Israel vote. Since then, India has twice more abstained when the U.N. held a vote against Israel, reversing what used to be its automatic support for the Arab consensus in international forums.

 

Israel has reciprocated, declaring its support for India’s aspiration to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Not surprisingly, deepening diplomatic and security bonds have coincided with an explosion in trade, which has grown from less than $200 million in 1992 to more than $5 billion now, comprising not only defense equipment, but all manner of technology, in areas such as agriculture, water treatment, recycling and more.

 

Ties with China have expanded at an even more rapid pace. A recent preparedness conference in Tel Aviv included quite a few Chinese military participants in uniform. But the heart of Israel’s relationship with China is not military or diplomatic; it is commercial. While the U.S. and the Europe Union as a whole remain Israel’s top two trading partners, China has climbed to become Israel’s third-largest, accounting for about one-third of Israel’s total trade.

 

In a landmark agreement, Israel and China are jointly developing an ambitious project to build a railway from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. When completed, the “Red-to-Med,” or “Steel Canal,” will allow cargo to bypass the Suez Canal by unloading at Israel’s Eilat port on the Red Sea and traveling by train to the port of Ashdod on the Mediterranean. The two countries also just signed an agreement expanding technology and energy cooperation, as countless large- and small-scale projects come together between Israeli and Chinese firms.

 

Last month, Israel held an event called the Silicon Dragon to promote Israeli firms’ work in China. And last week, Beijing held its first China-Israel Trade Summit, attended by China’s commerce minister and Israel’s minister of industry, trade and labor. Ties with China are not without controversy. Some security experts worry about China’s espionage track record. And former Mossad head Efraim Halevy says deals, particularly in local infrastructure, that have strategic value should be scrutinized more closely. But despite these concerns, the trend remains toward increased economic exchange.

 

Besides growing connections with India and China, there is another, perhaps more striking change in bilateral relations with a third Asian country. Japan, a nation whose reliance on imported oil made it observe the Arab boycott of Israel and keep its distance from the Jewish state, is suddenly effecting a drastic change in its diplomatic stance toward Israel. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited Israel last year, is actively encouraging Japanese firms to engage in the Israeli market. Israel recently opened a trade office in Osaka and expanded its trade staff in Tokyo. Amid feverish activity, bilateral trade volumes are reaching new records.

 

Israel still views the West as its ideological and diplomatic home. However, the Israeli pivot to Asia is already yielding dividends that lessen the sting of the barbs coming from Europe and the U.S., and is sure to remain a central feature of Israel’s economic and diplomatic activity.

 

 

Contents

                                       

                            CHINA, ISRAEL EMBRACES GOLDEN AGE

                      FOR INNOVATION COOPERATION                                                             

                                         Song Miou

               Xinhuanet News, Jan. 6, 2016

 

A buzz filled the auditorium as a drone hovered over the heads of hundreds of businessmen attending the China-Israel trade summit in Beijing. Arriving on stage, it dropped a key into the hands of Amir Gal-Or, an Israeli entrepreneur who was presenting his opening remarks. "This key is a symbol of something very small but I hope it opens something very big," said Gal-Or, founder and head of Infinity Group, a China-Israel private equity firm.

 

Gal-Or is referencing the long-term innovation cooperation between China and Israel, two countries that have both viewed entrepreneurship as a key future growth strategy. However different the two nations are geographically and culturally, innovation is bringing the two countries together at an unprecedented pace.

At the first China Israel Technology Innovation and Investment Summit on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 in Beijing, entrepreneurs lined extra chairs along the back wall of the packed conference hall. Outside the hall, Israeli businessmen were busy exchanging business cards with Chinese counterparts, hoping to find potential partners.

 

The enthusiasm from both sides doesn't come out of nowhere. Chinese investors have begun parking their money in world-renowned Israeli high-tech industries at a stunning pace. About 40 percent of all venture capital flowing into Israel came from China in 2015, according to Ziva Eger, chief executive of the foreign investments and industrial cooperation division at the Ministry of Economy of Israel. "2016 will be much much bigger than that, (the investment from China) will probably double," Eger told Xinhua.

 

But it's not merely money that the fund-thirsty Israeli companies are looking for. Seeing the tremendous market in China, Israel is trying to form a long-term strategic relationship with China through academic exchanges, research and development (R&D) cooperation and incubator programs. About 4,000 miles away from each other, China, with a population of 1.3 billion and Israel, with 8 million, have hardly anything in common. While China is a giant economy with significant manufacturing power, Israel is widely regarded as the innovation hub of the world, with little interest in manufacturing.

 

But it's the anomalies that have made Israel and China the perfect match, said Raz Gal-Or, co-founder of weWOWwe, a startup that tries to connect football fans around the world. "They say opposites attract," the Israel-born, China-educated entrepreneur told Xinhua. Indeed, Israel excels in fields where Chinese technology eagerly looks for breakthroughs. Modern agriculture, medical devices, and cyber security are sectors that brew the most innovation from partnership.

 

Alibaba, for example, made its way into the Israeli startup scene by investing in QR code company Visualead in 2015. It then became an investor of the Israel-based venture fund Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a venture capital firm known for its investment in cyber security. Fosun International, one of China's biggest private conglomerates, acquired Israeli medical device firm Alma Lasers for 222 million U.S. dollars in 2013. China's major food manufacturer Bright Food closed a deal in 2015 to purchase a majority stake in Israeli dairy giant Tnuva, a deal the Bright Food executive said would creates synergy in R&D.

 

The increase in cooperation between China and Israel is not surprising. Partnerships between the two countries can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road, according to Philippe Metoudi, co-author of the book "Israel and China: From Silk Road to Innovation Highway.” While differences exist, the Israelis and the Chinese still have many in common, Metoudi said. Their views on education, family values and appreciation for history, for example, are all shared philosophies that will help further boost long-term cooperation between the two nations. "We don't speak the same language, but we speak the same 'language' — we have the same ideas, the same values," Metoudi said.

 

As China transforms into a more innovation-driven economy, it's speeding up efforts to partner with Israel to strengthen its own technological might. For Israeli officials, helping create a better startup ecosystem in China also benefits local firms. "It's not only about money," said Ophir Gore, head of the trade mission at the Embassy of Israel in Beijing. "It's getting access to the Chinese market." In the past few years, China and Israel stepped up academic exchanges and R&D collaboration.

 

The recent establishment of Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, a partnership between China's Shantou University and the Israel's Technion, is a prime example of the attempt by the two countries to cooperate in higher education. Platforms such as the Changzhou Innovation Park in southern China provide physical proximity for Israeli firms to get funds and collaborate with Chinese companies in industrial R&D.

 

Israeli officials are further calling for Chinese companies to build R&D centers and set up production lines in Israel, pledging the best platform and grants from the government. With growing academic cooperation, collaborative programs, and shared vision from both governments, "the golden age for Israel-China innovation cooperation has come," said Yin Hejun, China's Vice Minister of Science and Technology.           

                                                                       

Contents                       

 WHY INDIA IS GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL

      Harsh V. Pant

the Diplomat, Jan. 26, 2016

 

In recent days, India has reached out to its Middle Eastern partners in a major way. Last week, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Bahrain to attend the first ministerial meeting of the India-Arab League Cooperation Forum. This was an opportunity to engage with the 22 member countries of the Arab League at a time when the region is going through a major crisis and sectarian divisions are rearing their heads like never before.

 

Further cementing the goodwill generated by the visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to Israel and Palestine some three months ago, Swaraj also visited Israel and Palestine. Her visit has paved the way for a possible visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to India later this year and it is also likely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may pay a return visit to Tel Aviv.

 

A hallmark of the Modi government’s foreign policy has been a self-confident assertion of Indian interests. This is reflected in his government’s moves vis-à-vis Israel, marking a distinct break from the unnecessary and counterproductive diffidence of the past. Despite sharing 24 years of diplomatic ties and working closely on defense, counterterrorism, agriculture, and energy-related issues, no Indian prime minister or president had visited Israel until Mukherjee’s visit last year.

 

There has been a steady strengthening of India’s relationship with Israel ever since the two established full diplomatic relations in 1992. It is a tribute to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s foresight that he was able to lay the foundation of the Indo-Israeli partnership. In contrast to the back-channel security ties that existed before the normalization of bilateral relations, India has been more willing in recent years to carve out a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship with Israel, including deepening military ties and liaising on countering the threat terrorism poses to the two societies.

 

Over the years, the Indian government has toned down its reactions to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. India has also begun denouncing Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist acts in Israel, something that was seen earlier as rather justified in light of the Israeli policies against the Palestinians. India is no longer initiating anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and has made serious attempts to moderate the Non-Aligned Movement’s (NAM) anti-Israel resolutions. This re-evaluation has been based on a realization that India’s largely pro-Arab stance in the Middle East has not been adequately reciprocated and rewarded by the Arab world.

 

India has received no worthwhile backing from Arab countries in the resolution of problems it faces in its neighborhood, especially Kashmir. There have been no serious attempts by the Arab world to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in the cross-border insurgency in Kashmir. On the contrary, Arab nations have firmly stood by Pakistan, using the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to build support for Islamabad and jihadi groups in Kashmir. If Arab nations, such as Jordan, have been able to keep their traditional ties with Palestine intact while building a new relationship with Israel, there is no reason for India not to take a similar route, which might give it more room for diplomatic maneuvering in the region.

 

In fact, it was recently revealed that since the beginning of 2014, representatives from Israel and Saudi Arabia have had five secret meetings to discuss a common foe, Iran. Though Saudi Arabia still doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and Israel has yet to accept a Saudi-initiated peace offer to create a Palestinian state, this has not prevented the two from working together to thwart a strategic threat that they both feel strongly about.

 

Keeping India’s wider strategic interests in perspective, successive Indian governments since the early 1990s have walked a nuanced line between expressing genuine concern for the Palestinian cause and expanding its commercial and defense ties with Israel. India is the world’s largest buyer of Israeli weaponry and was Israel’s third largest trading partner in Asia, just after China and Hong Kong…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

                                                                       

Contents                       

A ROVING AMBASSADOR

   Suzanne D. Rutland

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2016

 

“One day India may discover that her one-sided orientation in the Middle East is neither moral nor expedient. She may yet adopt a truly independent policy between the Arab states and Israel; only then will she be able to become a factor working for peace in the area which Indians call ‘West Africa.’” – Dr. S. Levenberg, January 4, 1957, Jewish Observer and ME Review, p.14. Despite the optimism of this hope expressed by Jewish Agency representative Dr. S. Levenberg, it took 35 years before it was realized.

 

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, and the two discussed increasing the already lucrative ties between the two countries. But the road to cooperation between the two democracies was not without struggle. Until 1992, India refused to grant full diplomatic relations to Israel. Even though the two nations shared much in common, and despite efforts made by Jewish leaders, including key Australian figure Isi Leibler, there seemed to be no chance of change. However, in 1991, a number of factors led to a dramatic change. Leibler and Australia’s role in India’s granting full diplomatic statues to Israel has been largely forgotten. With the full realization of Levenberg’s hope – thanks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – it is worthwhile recalling this history.

 

IN 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first prime minister. He was concerned with maintaining India’s neutrality in relation to the Cold War and with building the block of Third World nations. In November 1947, India voted against the partition of Palestine, but in 1950 Nehru granted de facto and de jure recognition to Israel. Yet, for reasons of expediency, he left the question of diplomatic recognition unresolved due to concerns about the Arab world, India’s 40-million- strong Muslim minority and the conflict in Kashmir. Nehru maintained an ambiguous position. In 1958 he stated: “Israel is a fact and I am not one to deny facts… I am not one to say it is altogether a negative fact.” But he did not change his policy.

 

After Nehru’s death in 1964, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, became the dominant figure until her assassination in 1984. She sought to strengthen India’s connections with the Arab world and remained very antagonistic to Israel. During the Six Day War, India supported Egypt, Russia and the Arab world. Commenting later, US B’nai B’rith leader William Korey wrote in The New Leader that the war “unmask[ed] India’s posture of Olympian morality and neutrality – so carefully cultivated among liberals through the world – as sheer pretense. From the start of the crisis on May 18 [1967], the Indian government has parroted the Cairo-Moscow arguments, however contradictory…”

 

Similarly, during the Yom Kippur War, India continued to maintain its anti-Israel policies, largely due to its dependence on Arab oil and trade. In 1978, Isi Leibler was elected as president of Australian Jewry. He had founded Jetset Travel, the largest travel agency in the Southeast Asia/Pacific region, and was keen to build links between Israel and the Asian countries. At the same time, the World Jewish Congress was becoming more aware of the importance of the region and Leibler was appointed as vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, Asia Region.

 

During a business trip in December 1981, Leibler managed to meet with Indira. After a five-minute presentation, when he spoke about Jewish concerns, she responded: “You are politically on dangerous ground here in India. I am under enormous pressure. It is not only Pakistan. I have a potential catastrophe with Muslims.” She then said: “Tell me why the American Jewish dominated press hates me… [and why] Jews concentrate their spite on me as if I were their worst enemy.” She ended by saying that she felt that Israel “hated” her and stressed that she liked Jews…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

 

 

On Topic

 

India’s Foreign Minister a ‘Personal Advocate’ for Strong Ties With Israel: Bradley Martin, JNS, Jan. 20, 2016—Almost three months after the landmark visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj this week followed suit with a two-day visit to Israel amid increasingly warm ties between the two countries.

India Successfully Tests Missile System Developed With Israel: Times of Israel, Dec. 30, 2015—The Indian Navy overnight Tuesday successfully tested the Barak 8 missile defense system, which was developed jointly with Israel.

President Xi Targets Energy, Stability During Debut Middle East Foray: Jeremy Koh, Channel News Asia, Jan. 20, 2016—Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to focus on energy and negating regional extremist influences during his five-day tour through Riyadh, Cairo and Tehran, which began Tuesday (Jan 19).

Latest China Stock Crash Spotlights Urgent Need for Financial Reform: Francesco Sisci, Asia Times, Jan. 5, 2016— The crash of the Chinese stock market on the first day of trading in 2016 is a stark reminder of the urgent need for reform in China’s financial system in particular and its economy in general.