Greece-Israel-Cyprus Relations: Ripe for Expansion?: Dr. George Voskopoulos, JCPA, Dec. 18, 2016— Inter-state relations consist of rational choices aimed at producing desired outcomes.
Israel and India: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2016 — President Reuven Rivlin’s eight-day trip to India is yet another sign of Israel’s warming ties with the Asian giant. Rivlin is in India with a delegation of Israeli businesses to mark a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Netanyahu Pays Visit to Strategically Positioned Azerbaijan: Ari Lieberman, Frontpage, Dec. 16, 2016 — On Monday, Israel took delivery of its first two F-35I “Adir” multi-purpose fighters.
Australia and Israel: Good Guys Should Stick Together: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Nov. 22, 2016— Australia and Israel have a warm relationship.
Israel’s Economy Defies BDS: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Dec. 12, 2016
For Israel, the Task is to Work Even Harder to Keep Old Friends and Reach Out to New Ones: Eran Lerman, Mosaic, Nov. 21, 2016
Meet The Coolest Israeli Companies On Wall Street: Einat Paz-Frankel, No Camels, Dec. 4, 2016
World’s Largest Desalination Plant Turns Mediterranean into Drinking Water (Video): Breaking Israel News, Oct. 26, 2016
Dr. George Voskopoulos
JCPA, Dec. 18, 2016
Inter-state relations consist of rational choices aimed at producing desired outcomes. For Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, this means a continuation of stability and security in the chaos that has erupted from the Arab Spring. In light of this upheaval in the Middle East, cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel is essential to produce a haven of stability.
First, for Israel, Greece and Cyprus represent a bridge of stability to Europe, a stable region close to home. This security dimension is important for a country surrounded by pockets of instability and sources of radicalism. Both countries provide Israel with an allied neighbor and bring Israel closer to Europe in terms of security, trade, and energy. Second, Israel is also a crucial security actor in a region affected by drastic domestic changes within states lacking a culture of peaceful co-existence. Currently, Greece is heavily saddled by the influx of refugees fleeing war. Cyprus, Greece, and Israel share similar significant interests such as security, energy security, and the need to deal with radicalism and terrorism. These three countries have a lot to gain by deepening multilevel cooperation.
Third, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are the only working democracies in a region of undemocratic, semi-democratic, and failing states. This is a powerful motivation factor for cooperation since democratic values are a fundamental criterion for partnerships. This strategic partnership could set the groundwork for future cooperation among these states.
In the last few years, Greek-Israeli relations have intensified due to the intensity of threats, the urgency, and the need to solidify relations in a region tormented by multifaceted threats. Israeli-Greek relations have advanced to a degree where the militaries are conducting joint air force operations and joint maneuvers by Greek and Israeli navies. Greece permitted an overfly mission by Israeli military aircraft in Greek air space in 2014. An Israeli military attaché has been stationed in Athens since 2014. These are major choices on the part of Athens, whose foreign policy of the past had focused exclusively on building a one-way relationship with the Arab world, leaving Israel out of the picture. Israel expressed deep gratitude to both countries for sending fire-fighting aircraft when widespread fires hit Israel in November 2016.
Greece-Cyprus-Israel relations are setting clear ground rules of engagement for states to operate as regional stabilizers. Jerusalem, Athens, and Nicosia constitute a stable axis of power that should be expanded to fill the vacuum of leadership in the region. The tripartite cooperation between the three countries as well as the joint declarations that followed recent meetings were labeled “non-exclusive,” thus leaving the door open for others willing to participate. Yet, any potential candidates for joining this cooperation will have to be clear about its intentions, policy choices, and above all their support for peace and democracy. These trilateral understandings are a message to the region. Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are initiating an alliance of stable nations, who share common values, and are willing to fight (in different ways) terrorism.
The recent advances constitute just the security dimension of this new tripartite cooperation. Cyprus and Greece provide Israel with close proximity to Europe, a continent where, despite problems, democracy flourishes. The intensity of threats, as well as the deteriorating security in the Middle East, point to the need of further cooperation between the stable forces in the region. This is a historic moment for the future of this region and the time is ripe to produce more allied relationships amidst the chaos of the Middle East.
In a very promising development, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have decided to formalize their proposal for the construction of a pipeline from gas fields off the coast of Israel. They are taking their case to the EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, thus making a formal step in materializing the project. The feasibility report of the proposal and its financial competitiveness are encouraging. The project possesses strategic advantages since it uses the safest route to Europe. The three democratic countries can guarantee in the long-term a secure means of delivery in the effort to minimize Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2016
President Reuven Rivlin’s eight-day trip to India is yet another sign of Israel’s warming ties with the Asian giant. Rivlin is in India with a delegation of Israeli businesses to mark a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The president is a guest speaker at the Confederation of Indian Industries Premier Biennial Agro Technology and Business Fair. He will also visit the sites of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 195 people, including 162 Indians and nine Israelis. The two events – the agro convention and the eight-year anniversary of the Mumbai attack – underline the two fields in which Israel and India have fruitful cooperation: business and defense.
Israel’s innovative, dynamic and free economy has so much to contribute and teach India. And India’s huge market offers an important destination for Israeli products. Indian farmers can benefit from Israeli expertise in drip irrigation, water security, methods to increase milk production in cows and genetic advances that breed disease-free poultry among others. Hi-tech startups in Bangalore and Hyderabad see Israeli firms as role models of creativity.
Israel and India also have in common a need to defend themselves from radical Islam. Both are democracies with highly diverse populations that are struggling to maintain robust democracies. Both countries face threats from Islamist terrorists who are motivated to violent acts not by anything India or Israel has done, but by what the countries represent. The 2008 attack in Mumbai is illustrative of how both India and Israel embody all that is despised by fundamentalist Islamists: the two countries’ freedoms and tolerance, their democratic rule, and their proudly non-Muslim cultures.
One of the most public expressions of India’s warming relations with Israel was its decision in July 2015 to abstain from a vote against Israel in the United Nations Human Rights Council that blamed Israel for “war crimes” it supposedly perpetrated during Operation Protective Edge, while ignoring the war-mongering of Hamas. But the pro-Israel pivot goes back much farther, beginning with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, once upon a time India’s most important ally in its conflict with US-backed Pakistan.
Nevertheless, India has faced some constraints when it comes to improving ties with Israel. One factor is India’s large Muslim population – approximately 180 million – more than any other non-Muslim state. But India has profited little from its consistent pro-Palestinian position. Arab countries have failed to back India against Pakistan in its dispute over Kashmir. Even the Palestinians have consistently and overwhelmingly favored Muslim Pakistan over India. In contrast, Israel has supported India’s position vis-à-vis Kashmir, offering it critical counter-terror know-how and technologies at least since the 1999 Kargil War.
Another factor contributing to the warming ties between Israel and India was the rise to power of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. If India’s leftists viewed Israel as a “neo-imperialist proxy of America,” BJP supporters – and Hindus in general – tend to see Israel as a plucky democracy with a strong, non-Muslim religious identity standing up to nihilistic Islamist terrorists – not unlike the Indians themselves. Many parallels can be drawn between BJP and our Likud-led government. Both seek to strengthen what they see as a more authentic national identity – Hindutva in India, Jewish in Israel – while maintaining a robust democracy.
Caving in to Muslim dictates is bad for India. Muslim countries have little of consequence to offer India. Good relations with India is an important Israeli asset. With its huge population, many of whom are well-educated, India provides a regional counterweight to Russia and China. India, like Israel, is an officially secular federal democracy that is based on ethnic and confessional pluralism that faces constant threats from jihadists. Rivlin’s visit to India as the two countries celebrate 25 years of cooperation is a reminder of how much Israel and India have in common and how the ties between the two countries can be mutually beneficial. India’s leaders should not allow intimidation from Muslim countries to dissuade them from reaping the benefits of cooperation with Israel.
Frontpage, Dec. 16, 2016
On Monday, Israel took delivery of its first two F-35I “Adir” multi-purpose fighters. Barring any unexpected cost overruns, Israel is slated to take delivery of a further 48 of these machines, reckoned to be the most advanced in the world. The acquisition will add to Israel’s already formidable fleet of F-16I, F-15I and F-15C fighter bombers. The following day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paid an official state visit to Azerbaijan to meet with his counterpart, President Ilham Aliyev, to sign various trade agreements and solidify understandings. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan is predominantly Shia, the Muslim nation maintains very good relations with Israel.
The two events are seemingly mutually exclusive but must be viewed within a wider geo-political context involving the Islamic Republic of Iran, its militarized nuclear program and the JCPOA, more commonly referred to as the Iran Deal. In any strike against Iran, the F-35, with its stealth capabilities, advanced avionics and large payload, will be the tip of the Israeli spear. These aircraft along with F-15 and F-16 fighter jets will be at the forefront of any operation targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israel also has an undisclosed number of Jericho III intercontinental ballistic missiles that can accurately deliver a payload of 1,000 kilograms of high explosives over a distance of 6,000 kilometers – well within range of every square inch of the Islamic Republic. The Jericho can also be fitted with an unconventional warhead. It is silo-based but there have been reports that Israel possesses a mobile tracked or wheeled version as well.
There will be a role for Israeli Navy as well. Its recent acquisition of the INS Rahav, its fifth submarine, will significantly enhance Israel’s offensive and defensive capabilities. The craft can accurately deliver the Israeli version of the American Tomhawk cruise missile called the Popeye Turbo, and do so virtually undetected. The Popeye Turbo can also be equipped with an unconventional warhead. Israel’s advanced submarine platforms will also be tasked with carrying out covert operations. But Iran is large and distant. Its nuclear facilities are well protected, fortified and scattered about the country. Israel will need to covertly partner with other nations bordering Iran to ensure maximum success.
Enter Azerbaijan, a relatively small nation that shares a border with its much larger neighbor, Iran. As a Muslim nation and a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Azerbaijan has paid lip service to anti-Israeli Muslim political initiatives. But despite this, Israel and Azerbaijan maintain excellent, if somewhat discreet relations. That is so because both nations share mutual concerns and strategic interests and both view Iran warily. President Aliyev once described Azeri-Israel relations as being like an iceberg, nine-tenths of it is below the surface. That analogy is quite accurate but with Netanyahu’s public visit, it seems as though Azerbaijan is no longer concerned about keeping its ties with the Jewish State secretive.
During Netanyahu’s visit, Aliyev spoke of the deepening defense ties between the two nations and noted that “so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to 5 billion dollars.” He added that he was “very satisfied with the level of this cooperation [between Israel and Azerbaijan].” Israel in turn derives much of its energy requirements from Baku.
Naturally, Netanyahu’s visit irked the Iranians who were quick to issue hysterical public denunciations of it. The Iranians have good reason to worry. An Israeli military presence in the Caucasus represents a game changer and heavily tilts the military balance in Israel’s favor. Forward operating bases would naturally close the vast distances separating the two nations and would further enable Israel to circumvent flyovers and aerial refueling over hostile enemy airspaces while en route to targets in Iran. Israel would also be able to carry out logistical, rescue and covert operations with greater ease.
In 2012, it was reported that Israel was seriously considering carrying out a preventative strike against Iran and had been covertly working with Azeri officials to further that goal. But in what can only be described as an act of supreme perfidy, the Obama administration leaked damaging information that inexplicably sought to expose and sabotage the burgeoning strategic alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan. The administration’s reasons for doing so remain a mystery. Perhaps it was an attempt to derail Israel’s attack plans or perhaps, as some have suggested, it was an act of pure malevolence. Either way, the betrayal harmed Israel’s covert efforts and security interests.
Four years later, there’s a new sheriff in town, one who has openly expressed disdain for the JCPOA and one who, unlike Obama, has promised to hold Iran accountable to its international commitments. When Netanyahu meets Trump, it’s a sure bet that Iran will be at the top of the agenda and the two realist leaders see eye-to-eye on the nature of the Iranian menace and the pitfalls of the JCPOA. The military option, all but sidelined by Obama, is now very much alive and the mullahs should be afraid, very afraid.
Prof. Efraim Inbar
BESA, Nov. 22, 2016
Australia and Israel have a warm relationship. In addition to the bond of their common values, both countries well remember the important Australian military contribution to the eviction of Turkish forces from the Land of Israel in 1917, and many Israelis have fond memories of the Aussies who passed through Mandatory Palestine during WWII. The two countries also share serious strategic concerns. They should work together more closely to tackle them.
In the Middle East, the Obama administration has projected weakness and encouraged Iran’s quest for hegemony. The vacuum created by the lower American profile has been partially filled by the Russians, a trend with worrying implications.
Asian as well as Middle Eastern states view the declining American role with concern. Despite the Obama administration’s rhetoric about pivoting to Asia, it did little to reassure its allies. Indeed, many of them now fear the rise of China, which is aggressively pursuing ambitious goals. The Philippines, under the colorful President Rodrigo Duterte, appears to wish to substitute its American orientation with a Chinese one. China has been more active of late in the greater Middle East, offering support to anti-American states like Iran and Syria. The Chinese Belt and Road initiative, while primarily motivated by economics, nevertheless has strategic significance in East and West Asia.
The spread of radical Islam, too, is a challenge for both Australia and Israel. In the Middle East, it is not only small radical Islamist states and groups that cause trouble. States with an Islamist agenda are contributing to the radicalization of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, for example, has spread its Wahhabi version of Islam for decades. Since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has disseminated its revolutionary understanding of Shia, gaining control of four Arab capitals in the process – Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sana. Since 2002, Turkey has been ruled by an Islamist leader who supports Sunni radical elements in Gaza, Syria, Libya, and Iraq.
Radical Islam is increasingly infiltrating South and East Asia, with the potential to destabilize countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. This prospect is of great concern to Australia, the Muslim minority of which is displaying signs of unrest. Finally, the specter of nearby nuclear proliferation is much feared by both Australia and Israel. Until recently, the Americans’ traditional position as security provider was a disincentive for nuclear proliferation. The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran changed that by legitimizing Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to stand idly by as Iran, their regional competitor, makes nuclear progress. Unfortunately, the increased mistrust of Washington’s leadership has made American security guarantees less credible.
A similar development is underway in East Asia, where Chinese assertiveness and the growing North Korean nuclear threat are believed to be receiving an inadequate American response. The perception of American disengagement increases the likelihood that South Korea and Japan will adopt a nuclear posture, starting a chain of proliferation in other parts of Asia.
Australia’s and Israel’s common apprehensions about these global trends provide the strategic glue with which to build closer relations in defense and foreign affairs. With that in mind, Anthony Bergin of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and I co-authored a report, The Wattle and the Olive: A New Chapter in Australia and Israel Working Together, which suggests that the two countries move towards greater cooperation.
Up to now, there have been almost no high-level military exchanges between the two countries. Israel doesn’t have a uniformed military attaché in Canberra (although it has posted a civilian from the Ministry of Defense). The Australian military attaché to Israel is based in Ankara, Turkey. A regular and sustained dialogue of foreign and defense ministers is clearly in order. A strategic interchange involving senior uniformed and civilian defense personnel should look at strategic thinking, US alliance issues, military-to-military cooperation, and defense industry cooperation.
Australia should upgrade military and diplomatic relations with Israel to tap into its expertise in counter-terrorism, hi-tech weapons systems, and cyber-security. The Australian and Israeli militaries would benefit from enhanced cooperation: both operate American equipment, and both have invested heavily in world-class technology. The two militaries can share doctrinal insights and intelligence. Israel, whose military doctrine is based on self-reliance, can learn from Australia’s experience in military coalitions. Israel, in turn, has experience in urban warfare and in the development of unmanned aerial systems for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat, an area in which the Australian air force is developing its capability.
Israel also has expertise in countering improvised explosive devices (an area in which Australia also displays considerable proficiency) and is a global pacesetter in active measures for armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and the use of robotics in the battlefield. Both countries are close to major choke-points along maritime oil and trade routes, making naval affairs an important component of their national strategies. Australia has a big navy and Israel plans to expand its own, in part to protect its offshore gas fields. Regarding air power, both countries have acquired the US-made F-35A, so there might be potential for collaboration. (In the technical domain, collaboration is most likely to occur in the broader community of international operators of the F-35A.)…
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Israel’s Economy Defies BDS: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Dec. 12, 2016—1. In December, 2016, Israel is unprecedentedly integrated into the global economy, highlighting the successful battle against BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), while rejecting pessimism and fatalism.
For Israel, the Task is to Work Even Harder to Keep Old Friends and Reach Out to New Ones: Eran Lerman, Mosaic, Nov. 21, 2016 —Arthur Herman’s essay, “Everybody Loves Israel,” comes as a breath of fresh air amid the pummelings being administered by the United Nations and the BDS movement and the dirge-like laments of friends about the Jewish state’s growing isolation as it courts a fate worse even than apartheid South Africa’s.
Meet The Coolest Israeli Companies On Wall Street: Einat Paz-Frankel, No Camels, Dec. 4, 2016—Israel is the largest foreign presence on Wall Street following China and Canada. Some 70 Israeli companies are currently traded on the New York Stock Exchange, with many technology firms listed on NASDAQ. “The level of Israeli equities listed on Wall Street is yet another example of Israeli innovation and the strong US-Israel relationship,” Daniella Rilov, executive director of the America-Israel Friendship League, said during a New York Stock Exchange event dedicated to Israel last month.
World’s Largest Desalination Plant Turns Mediterranean into Drinking Water (Video): Breaking Israel News, Oct. 26, 2016—Take a sneak peek into the largest desalination plant in the world using reverse osmosis – found in Israel, of course! How does one tiny desert nation provide water for all its citizens safely and ecologically? Check it out!