Israel In A Multipolar World


A very important post. I think the diagnosis is correct, but the prescription is wrong. Israel does need to develop good relations with democratic rising powers like India, Brazil and China. But it would be re-playing its damaging alliances with South Africa to consider allying with brutal authoritarian states like China, purely for the sake of realpolitik.

By Liam Hoare:

Netanyahu’s “speech of his life” may have been damaging for an already weakened peace process, but it did hit the mark in its analysis of the special relationship between Israel and the United States – two exceptional nations that compliment each other like gin and tonic. As Netanyahu put it in his speech to Congress: “We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism”.

Their relationship has been beneficial for both parties, for indeed the United States has been able to rely on Israel as the “one anchor of stability in a region of shifting alliances”. American presidents haven’t had to nation-build or construct democracy in Israel – these are things the Jewish people achieved for themselves, along with the capacity to fight their own battles in a region flush with nations none too pleased at their presence.

Going the other way, and as Netanyahu recognised in his speech, the United States has always been “very generous” in giving them the “tools to do the job of defending Israel” on their own. The most recent deal of note came when economic aid came to an end in 2007; President Bush signed a ten-year deal which gave Israel $30 billion in military assistance.

This past of unwavering fiscal support during a time of (to a minimal degree) American economic expansion is now a forgotten season, as the nation turns inward to confront its crippling national debt (at a level of, as near as makes no difference, 100pc of GDP). The rise of the Tea Party would indicate that, when the time comes for the budget to be slashed, foreign aid and the Defence Department might have to bear the brunt. The spirit might be willing in most quarters, but the body will be weakened to a point where Washington can no longer afford to be so charitable to even its best of friends.

The consequences of relative American decline are clear, and will have very real consequences for the State of Israel. For, by decade’s end, it is evident that the world will no longer be unipolar, with the United States at its axis. Rather, it will almost certainly be bi- if not multipolar – the direct result of the economic rise and neo-colonial expansion of China, and other nouveau riche nations like India and Brazil. Over the course of the next ten years, the power of America and Israel’s eternal bond as a mechanism for dictating the nature of globalpolitics will evidently diminish.

Therefore it seems clear that, in order to secure Israel’s continuation not only as a player on the world stage but as a nation-state in and of itself, she must continue to nurture its ties with China on one level, whilst maintaining its unique marriage with United States on another.

Israel and the United States have a special relationship today. Israel and China must have an essential relationship for tomorrow.

Israel and China will never have the same transcendent bond the former has with America. After all, unless the waft of jasmine gets carried across mountains and seas as to perfume the polluted Beijing air, these two nations will not be standing side by side in advancing the cause of democracy and human rights. Apparently, when a dove flaps its wings in Cairo, the people of China feel nothing of it.

Nonetheless, they do share some common economic and political interests which will mature their relationship to a level of healthy cooperation. For a start, both nations would appear to face similar existential threats, namely the struggle for the control of natural resources – in particular, water – and also the looming spectre of Islamic terror.

Professor Aron Shai of Tel Aviv University argues further that China has adopted a balanced view towards Israel, since she seeks to be a player in negotiations for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has the potential to manipulate this desire in their favour, provided they demonstrate that their position is concurrent with China’s ultra-realist foreign policy doctrine. Al-Jazeera speculated for instance that it was Israel who above all persuaded China to vote in favour of another round of sanctions against her long-time ally Iran.

Thus when the world becomes bipolar by 2020, Israel could find itself in the position of having good relations with both of the world’s superpowers. Israel will always be pro-American, yet above all, Israel’s foreign policy must be guided by the realisation that its existence depends not only on its ability to defend itself, but on the will of the world’s superpowers to champion their interests on the world stage. Thus in the coming years the State would be wise not to follow blindly Europe and America in their path of closing themselves off to the dragon stirring in the east.

Israel and the United States have a special relationship today. Israel and China must have an essential relationship for tomorrow.


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