Realigning Israel’s Foreign Policy

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Despite its highs and lows, Israel values relations with Turkey far more than those with Armenia: A billboard celebrating Netanyahu's 2013 apology to Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara affair
Despite its highs and lows, Israel values relations with Turkey far more than those with Armenia: A billboard celebrating Netanyahu's 2013 apology to Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara affairCredit: AP

Significant changes are taking place in Israel’s relations with countries near and far. In the immediate neighborhood, Cyprus and Greece, both members of the European Union, have established close economic and political relations with Israel. And now Turkey, a major Middle East player, will be normalizing relations with Israel.

That, no doubt, is a prelude to closer economic and political relations based on common interests in the area, notwithstanding the differences that exist between Turkey and Cyprus and Greece, and Turkey’s position on the Palestinian issue. A political and economic bloc is taking shape, which may include military cooperation as well in due time that will profoundly influence the course of events in the Middle East in the years to come.

No less significant are the relations that have developed with Egypt and Jordan. The Sunni-Shi’ite rift and the rise of ISIS have made it clear that Israel and these countries share common enemies, enemies that threaten the stability of the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes and make security cooperation with Israel a common interest of Israel, Egypt and Jordan. The rulers of Jordan and Egypt continue to pay lip-service to the Palestinian cause, but it is clear what their immediate priorities are.

And there is Saudi Arabia, the wealthiest Arab country, threatened by ISIS and Iran. For obvious reasons its rulers are not prepared to establish formal relations with Israel, but here too common enemies are bound to result in developing behind-the-scenes relationships.

Israel’s relations with Russia are excellent. These old and new friends of Israel see Israel as a strong country militarily and economically, and therefore a country that wields significant influence in the immediate area and even beyond. Israel is a friend worth having.

Simultaneously, Israel has been pivoting to the East. India, which now outranks France economically, has one of the fastest growing economies. With Pakistan as a neighbor and a large Muslim minority among its population, its problems are not dissimilar from the problems facing Israel, and that leaves room for extensive cooperation that would be of mutual benefit. China, the world’s second superpower, is too large to be ignored by Israel, while Israel, small as it is, nevertheless is seen by China as a technological superpower. In these countries, unlike Europe, anti-Semitism is almost non-existent.

Prognostications regarding a deterioration of Israel’s relations with the United States, Israel’s most important ally and friend, are way off the mark. It is true that the U.S. is changing, as is most of the rest of the world, and the most recent waves of immigration have changed the demographics of the country. But those who assume that this is bound to lead to a cooling of the relations between Israel and the U.S. in the future fail to understand the nature of America, a country of immigrants.

The ideals and values of America are the ideals and values of America at its foundation, and they have not changed since 1776. Successive waves of immigrants have adopted these values, and that no doubt will be true with the most recent wave of immigration. It is these ideals and values – democracy and the rule of law – that are the foundation of the alliance between the U.S. and Israel, and that alliance will persist despite inevitable differences of opinion that occur now and then.

And there is the common cause – the battle against radical Islamic terrorism – which bonds Israel and all the countries threatened by it. Israel, which has had to contend with acts of terror for many years, has by necessity become the world’s expert in dealing with terrorism, and its cooperation and capabilities are being sought by all those who feel threatened by it. That cooperation will serve as an important element in Israel’s relations with the world. Israel will not find itself isolated.

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