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  • January 23, 2013

    Israel Isn’t Isolated

    By Gabriel Scheinmann, THE NATIONAL INTEREST

    Following the reaction to Israel’s bevy of construction announcements late last year, one would assume that Israel’s right-wing, settlement-crazed government had, once more, managed to thumb its nose at the world and deepen Israel’s already-perilous pariah position. It had just received international support during Operation Pillar of Defense and the Obama administration’s backing in opposing the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. Yet Israel not only announced construction in East Jerusalem and the large settlement blocks, but also advanced zoning plans in E-1, a barren, 4.6 square mile area that connects Jerusalem to Maale Adumim.


    Condemnation was instant and global. Israeli ambassadors were upbraided across Europe. The Swedish Foreign Minister went so far as to say that “what the Israelis did on E1 has shifted opinions in Europe,” while the Obama administration said the construction would be “damaging” to a two-state solution and that it shared the same sentiment as its European allies, which had condemned Israel vociferously. Meanwhile, Time magazine dubbed 2012 “The Year of the Israeli Settlement” and the New York Times called Netanyahu’s plans “disturbing,” saying that it furthered Israel’s isolation.

    But once the hysteria dissipates, it becomes obvious that Israel is far from the isolated and cast-off state it is made out to be. On the contrary, Israel is actually at the height of its global integration, increasingly enmeshed across diplomatic, economic and cultural fronts. Settlement construction may indeed spark outrage in European capitals and angst in the White House, but it has not stood in the way of Israel’s greater inclusion in the global economy and international institutions, as well as increased normalized diplomatic relations.

    Historically, Israel was most isolated during the Cold War, as the entire Soviet-backed Eastern Bloc, save Ceausescu’s Romania, did not have relations with the Jewish State. As if that wasn’t enough, neither did China, India, or Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). To top it off, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, nearly the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa suspended relations with Jerusalem under pressure from the Arab oil embargo. During the 1980s, outside a few exceptions, Israel only had full diplomatic relations with the United States, Canada, Latin America and Western Europe. Even then, it did not have relations with Spain until 1986 or full diplomatic relations with Greece, which was the sole European country to vote against Partition in 1947, until 1990. Relations with the Vatican weren’t established until 1994.

    The end of the Cold War provided an immediate and massive improvement in Israel’s diplomatic position. Israel was able to establish embassies in the entire former Soviet space, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia, as well as in China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1989, Israel has established full diplomatic relations with nearly 70 countries and has peace treaties with two immediate neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. Today, the only non-Muslim majority countries that do not have relations with Israel are the Chavez-led bloc (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua), Bhutan and North Korea. Although some Arab countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, Qatar and Mauritania) have indeed closed budding Israeli trade offices or interests sections opened in the wake of the Oslo Accords, the evidence overwhelmingly affirms that Israel has both greater and deeper diplomatic relations now than it has ever had.

    Even under the Netanyahu government, Israel has become more integrated into the workings of international institutions. For the first time last year, Israel became a member of the executive board of the UN Development Program, was recently elected to the executive board of UNICEF for the first time in 40 years, and its ambassador to the UN was elected to be a vice president of the UN General Assembly. In a real stunner, a 2011 UN panel of inquiry into the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident affirmed that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was both legitimate and legal. Although Israel’s inability to gain much Western support against the successful Palestinian bid to upgrade its status to that of a non-member observer state (same status as the Vatican) was certainly a diplomatic setback—the actual vote was never in question due to the dominance of OIC countries in the GA—Israel is slowly but surely becoming more integrated into the UN machinery.

    Similarly, despite near-automatic condemnation of Israel’s supposed quick resort to military force, many states continue both to conduct military exercises with Israeli forces and to purchase arms from the Jewish State. In the past year alone, Israel has conducted military exercises with Greece, Poland, and Italy in addition to the largest joint military exercise in Israel’s history with the United States, dubbed Austere Challenge 2012. Romanian and Finnish air force chiefs paid visits to Jerusalem and Indian and Chinese warships made ports of call at Haifa. Moreover, Israel clinched major arms deals with Singapore, Colombia, India, Italy, and Azerbaijan—a Shiite Muslim country bordering Iran; Israel regularly sells systems to Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Brazil. In addition to its extraordinarily close military relationship with the United States, with annual joint exercises, co-proprietary missile defense programs, and officer exchanges, Israel bonds with the armed forces of other nations are only multiplying.

    The Israeli economy is also at a high-point of global integration. In 2010, it was admitted into the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development), a 34-member club of Western-oriented countries committed to democracy and the free market. Israeli exports and imports were at all-time highs in 2012, trade with China and India grow annually at double-digit rates, and the EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner, accounting for around 30 percent of Israel’s total trade. Just this past October, the EU and Israel ratified the ACAA (Agreements on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products), meaning that the EU now certifies Israeli industrial standards as equal to European ones, easing the import, for example, of Israeli pharmaceutical products, which are already the 5th largest source for the EU. Israel has also signed several groundbreaking, potentially multi-billion dollar gas deals with Cyprus and Greece. In the next year, Israel likely will become the first non-European member of CERN, the Geneva-based physics organization, and will ratify an “Open Skies” agreement with the EU, which will allow both European and Israeli airlines to operate direct flights between any of their cities. Lastly, 2012 was a record year for tourists flocking to Israel, as the unraveling of the Arab revolts has cast Israel as an oasis of calm. Perhaps the definition of “isolation” should be changed.

    By any measure, the last several years have been a high-point of Israeli integration into the international community. Trade, tourism, and military exchanges are booming and Israel has been admitted into several prestigious international organizations. It was even recognized by South Sudan, weeks after the latter’s independence, and hosted South Sudanese president Salva Kiir a few months later.

    While there is no doubt that Europe, the Obama Administration, and the mainstream media have an ingrained indisposition towards Israeli settlement construction, Israel’s international diplomatic, military, and economic standing in the world have only been strengthened over the past two decades. Perhaps this conundrum is best exemplified by the July 2012 visit to Israel of José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, who, in the same speech in which he expressed concern over continued settlement building, said it best: “a continent such as Europe, that invests heavily in innovation, needs to have close links with a ‘start-up nation’, like Israel.”

    Gabriel Scheinmann is a PhD student at Georgetown University and a visiting fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

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  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 11:19 pm | 12 Comments »

    12 Comments to Israel Isn’t Isolated

    1. Eric R. says:

      And he doesn’t even touch upon Israel’s potential oil shale windfall. If the reserves are even 1/10 of the 250 billion barrels that some claim, it would be an even bigger game changer than the natural gas.

    2. NormanF says:

      Eric R. Said:

      And he doesn’t even touch upon Israel’s potential oil shale windfall. If the reserves are even 1/10 of the 250 billion barrels that some claim, it would be an even bigger game changer than the natural gas.

      Natural gas is going to be piped into Israel starting next year and this will boost jobs, income and growth. It could make Israel’s “social protests” a thing of the past.

    3. yamit82 says:

      NormanF Said:

      Eric R. Said:
      And he doesn’t even touch upon Israel’s potential oil shale windfall. If the reserves are even 1/10 of the 250 billion barrels that some claim, it would be an even bigger game changer than the natural gas.

      Natural gas is going to be piped into Israel starting next year and this will boost jobs, income and growth. It could make Israel’s “social protests” a thing of the past.

      You are much too optimistic. At least in the short term and certainly not in the next 2-4 years.

    4. Eric R. says:

      yamit82 Said:

      NormanF Said:
      Eric R. Said:
      And he doesn’t even touch upon Israel’s potential oil shale windfall. If the reserves are even 1/10 of the 250 billion barrels that some claim, it would be an even bigger game changer than the natural gas.
      Natural gas is going to be piped into Israel starting next year and this will boost jobs, income and growth. It could make Israel’s “social protests” a thing of the past.
      You are much too optimistic. At least in the short term and certainly not in the next 2-4 years.

      Where do you get that assertion from? The Tamar field will come on line in about 2 months, and just that field alone is expected to boost GDP by 1-2% this year.

    5. yamit82 says:

      Eric R. Said:

      Where do you get that assertion from? The Tamar field will come on line in about 2 months, and just that field alone is expected to boost GDP by 1-2% this year.

      All of the production will go to Israel first to IEC and the rest for industrial and home consumption. It won’t reduce the cost of electricity to the consumer because of the heavy debt of IEC. It will help with regards to bal of Payments and reduce government imports reducing some of our national debt but certainly not enough to add 1-2% to our GDP especially when other sectors of the economy are under stress due to the Global downturn especially Europe and the States. Israel has a curreent budget of 40-50 billion NIS/ Austertiy measures are coming and they will be oppressive,regressive and painfull

    6. Max says:

      NormanF Said:

      Natural gas is going to be piped into Israel starting next year and this will boost jobs, income and growth

      HA HA – elite propaganda (I didn’t even need to see Yamit’s explanation – if it wasn’t that it would be something similar) it never happens – It always makes the super rich wealthier and cements their control and economic fascism – very few get to participate and those that do only get thrown scraps.

      But many in the West, including Israel are convinced that being a beggar and eating filthy scraps from the rich is being the ‘Best that they can be”.. ha what poor deluded fools – one can only say – propaganda works!

    7. CuriousAmerican says:

      @ NormanF:
      Natural gas is going to be piped into Israel starting next year and this will boost jobs, income and growth. It could make Israel’s “social protests” a thing of the past.

      Despite Yamit’s naysaying, this may be a game changer.

      Europeans affections are for sale. If Israel can supply Europe, then Europe’s opinions may change.

      It is also a game changer for the Arabs, who may be faced with a loss of their clout.

      What is amazing is that the other half of that field is in Lebanon’s side. Lebanon has done nothing about it except to argue how the money should be spent, if and when Lebanon ever goes drilling.

    8. yamit82 says:

      CuriousAmerican Said:

      Despite Yamit’s naysaying, this may be a game changer.

      Natural gas supply from the Tamar field to Israel could be at risk if additional production drilling to the prospect is not carried out in the next two years, according to a professional opinion recently submitted to the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. The opinion was prepared by the Dutch energy development consultancy company SGS Horizon B.V.

      According to Tamar’s current development plan, natural gas will be produced from just five production wells and within seven years it is planned to add more wells. In addition, the field will be developed using the Tieback production method for the furthest distances known today worldwide. The gas will be pumped up from wells 1,450 meters underwater to platforms 180 kilometers from the field.

      The investigation conducted by SGS found that there is a little likelihood that the gas pressure from the Tamar field will be enough to get by without additional wells in the coming years. The significance of the findings is that it brings forward tens of millions of dollars in development costs for the field. Furthermore, implementing more drillings raises the risk that water will seep into the gas field.

      Noble Energy has rejected a report by Dutch consultants SGS Horizon that Tamar gas pressure will soon be too low for pumping.

    9. CuriousAmerican says:

      Yamit, I cannot believe that I am more optimistic than you are in this Israeli prospect.

      Out of character for you.

    10. Laura says:

      @ CuriousAmerican:
      Actually pessimism is completely in character for Yamit.

    11. steven l says:

      The Muslims are still more interested in the brainwashing and killing of their own “fidels” (1.35 Bn) to the altar of their genocidal ideology rather than collaborate to the education of their masses and improvement of their economies. Sixty years of missed opportunities.

    12. catarin says:

      The only place where Jews can control their own destiny is Israel. The past 2000 years for Jews has been rife with danger. Isolation and persecution have been the norm for them. They have been killed in record numbers just for being Jews, no matter how much good they have contributed to society.

      I fail to understand how outsiders insist on an Arab state next door to them when Arabs are their greatest enemy. Arabs refuse to grow up and act civilized. So don’t be surprised when Israelis refuse to cooperate with any who try to place them in further danger. The Arabs had 64 years to work this out. Too bad for them it’s too late.

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