Monday, July 25, 2016

The spring of foreign relations - Zalman Shoval




by Zalman Shoval

Israel is seeing a series of positive developments in relations with countries with which it does not have official diplomatic ties, based on common interests such as the war on terror, scientific and technological developments, economy and trade, and much more


"The Middle East is in chaos, Europe is falling apart and U.S. politics are faltering. The only solid spot is Israel," a Middle East expert who is a senior insider privy to the decision-making process concerning American foreign policy wrote me last week.

Events have taught us that while this statement may be slightly exaggerated, it is well-grounded in reality. Stability is relative, of course, but what this American expert observed is the fact that despite the near-constant unrest in the Israeli coalition and the parallel agitation in the coalition, Israel has been able to successfully weather challenge after challenge, as evident from its blossoming foreign relations. 

The most recent validation is the resumption of diplomatic relations with Guinea, a Muslim African nation, as well as the possibility of deepening relations with Chad.

Our "friends" in Europe often warn of Israel's "isolation," but reality begs to differ: Resuming full diplomatic relations with Turkey; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Africa, with its important diplomatic and economic implications; bolstering ties with Egypt; and promoting the pragmatic ties with Russia; as well as pursuing closer ties with India, China, Japan, and other Asian nations -- these are not trivial moves.

Moreover, Israel is seeing a series of positive developments in relations with countries with which it does not have official diplomatic ties, based on common interests such as the war on terror, scientific and technological developments, economy and trade, and much more.

One of the main characteristics of these important developments in Israel's foreign relations is the correlation between promoting Israel's interests and the events taking place in the world around us, including the common denominators found with Arab states opposite the threats posed by Iran and the Islamic State group. While in the past, moves concerning these issues were driven by U.S. intervention, now they are driven by local players seeking to promote their own interests in the local theater.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer the primary concern for decision-makers in the Arab Sunni world, they cannot ignore it altogether, so there is no reason to expect these countries to pursue open diplomatic relations with Israel in the near future. Still, Israel would be able to use its budding ties with some of the moderate Arab world to promote interim solutions to this issue.

As for Europe, one can only hope that the EU's escalating internal issues will at least tone down its insistence to pursue futile endeavors such as the "French initiative." Such moves mostly demonstrate ignorance of the true issues plaguing the Middle East, and therefore undermine Europe's own stability.

It is important to underscore the fact that, while the diplomatic progress made vis-a-vis many countries is very welcome, nothing can ever replace Israel's strong ties with the U.S., and therefore much of the effort should also be directed at Washington, regardless of who may lead the executive branch after the 2016 presidential elections.


Zalman Shoval

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=16769

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