TEL AVIV – Israel’s persistent occupation of Palestinian lands is irreparably damaging its international standing – or so the conventional wisdom goes. In fact, Israel currently enjoys a degree of global influence unprecedented in its history, as a slew of new international challenges give its foreign policy, long held hostage by the single issue of Palestine, significantly more room for maneuver.
Recognizing mounting popular opposition to unequivocal support for Israel in the West, Israel has been looking elsewhere for economic, and ultimately political, partners. From 2004 to 2014, Israeli exports to Asia tripled, reaching $16.7 billion last year – one-fifth of total exports.
Israel now trades more with the once implacably hostile Asian giants – China, India, and Japan – than it does with its leading global ally, the United States. Neither Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited Israel a few weeks after his reelection in December 2014, nor the leaders of China, now Israel’s third-largest trading partner, bother to link their economic ties with Israel to the success of peace talks with the Palestinians.
With India, defense cooperation is the order of the day. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited India in February last year, and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee reciprocated with a historic visit to Israel in October. The election of the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in May 2014 may be accelerating cooperation. Already, Israel is India’s second-largest supplier of military technology.