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Israeli ties compromise Asian support to Arabs

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By Nicola Nasser*

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Israel has carved economic inroads into Asia deep enough to compromise the traditional Asian political support for Arabs. If this trend continues, the growing economic Israeli-Asian relations could in no time translate into political ties that would neutralize Asia in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's official visit to Japan from May 11-15 is not an historic breakthrough per se in bilateral relations that date back to 1952.

Neither is the normalization of relations in "a matter of weeks" between Israel and Turkey, which was the first major Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel in 1949, as promised by the Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on last April 27.

However both events should highlight the historic breakthrough Israel has discreetly and quietly achieved in pivoting to Asia, once an Arab reservoir of support in their conflict with Israel over Palestine.

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"For the first time, in 2014, Israeli exports with Asia will exceed trade with the US, pushing it from second to third place (behind the EU)," director of the Foreign Trade Administration at Israel's Ministry of the Economy, Ohad Cohen, was quoted as saying by Israeli "Globes" on April 27.

While opening more trade attache' offices in Asia, the Israeli Ministry of the Economy has closed a number of European trade offices in Austria, Hungary, Finland and Sweden "in order to refocus on emerging markets," Cohen explained.

"Today we have five offices in China, three in India, and we have added attache' in Vietnam and an office in Manila," he added.

US President Barak Obama was in Asia last April trying to demonstrate that his promised Asian strategic shift was at last real. Meanwhile, the Israelis were already secured in their strategic shift to Asia.

While Obama was trying to forge a US-Asian counterbalance to China in what Chinese commentators described as "Cold War mentality," Israel was courting the emerging Chinese economic superpower as well as India, which the World Bank on last April 29 reported it had overtaken Japan as the world's third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.

"'Pivot to Asia' is a term that might be applied to Israel," Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times on April 24, citing a boom in its trade with China to more than $8 billion in 2013. Israel's military and technological cooperation with China had once created a crisis in the U.S. - Israeli relations.

Cohen noted that while the US and Europe continue to "huff and puff" about the illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank "Asia does business. India has already bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for a missile-intercept system and communications equipment from Israel."

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India a case study


Indian Minister of State for Industry Dr. Ashwani Kumar (L) meets Israeli President Shimon Peres in Egypt on May 23, 2010
(Image by PIB photo)
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India could be a case study of Israel's historic breakthrough.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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