Archive for February, 2010

February 11, 2010

On Iran, Israel has the Ability to Sanction China

by Gedalyah Reback

Recently, the Chinese government expressed interest in investing in a new Israeli consortium developing the offshore oil fields near Haifa. This would add to the growing presence of China in Israel’s economy, which included the Carmel Tunnel and the Tel Aviv Light-Rail Project. China’s Yifang recently acquired Israel’s Pegasus Technologies. China is definitely interested in increasing its economic namely energy ties with Israel.

And that is precisely why they should be withheld.

More and more, the Chinese government has publicly come out against renewed sanctions against Iran. Further, Beijing has attacked the US for publicly attacking internet censorship in Iran. Compound these facts with Chinese support for North Korea and we are presented with an intolerable link with the Syria’s destroyed nuclear installation, attacked with a swift air strike in September 2007. All of these positions run counter to Jerusalem’s interests and should be grounds for Israeli sanctions against Beijing.

The military trade has been under pressure to be cut off for years, and this would provide Israel with the optimal excuse to make that gesture. Among numerous examples, the Bush Administration pressured and torpedoed a $1 billion deal that would have seen Israel upgrade Chinese jets and radars. There was diplomatic damage done from the abrupt deal breaker, but it is a move worth emulating, even at a time where Israel’s government is resolved to challenge US pressure on Israeli policy. China has benefited from the military trade with Israel, roughly totaling $1.5 billion during the 1990s, and currently covers work on surface-to-air missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

As part of a greater effort to either persuade or pressure the Chinese into supporting a stronger sanctions regime against Tehran, Israel should show signs it will strengthen its relationship with Japan at China’s expense. It is also would not outside Israel’s periphery to cooperate with American-Taiwanese arms deals, like the clandestine Israeli transfer of American missiles to Taiwan in the 1980s.

Aside from the military imports, Chinese exports to Israel represent about $3.17 billion according to the Israeli Embassy to China. China itself recognizes the need to wean itself off oil and gas investments in places like Iran, even if only for the sake of diversifying its economy and improving its R&D sector, something it ought to be willing to make diplomatic concessions on in order to do. Even the mere threat that exports to Israel could be cut off would be a sure sign that China cannot reap benefits from both Israel and Iran simultaneously.

According to Tel Aviv University’s Aron Shai (link, p.27): ), expert on Israeli-Chinese relations, there is much that Israel still has to offer China in terms of agriculture and energy, something in which China has a commanding interest. Those facts point directly to Israel’s revolutionary desalinization technology and solar power markets. Limited access to advanced agro-techology and energy alternatives would certainly threaten China’s pace of growth.

It would certainly be preferable to open more economic missions in China, given the size of the market and tremendous demand for Israeli R&D. But given China’s obstinance on Israel’s priority security issue, such long-term investments should be off the table.

February 6, 2010

Israeli Sanctions against China and Stronger Ties with Japan

by Gedalyah Reback

Recently, the Chinese government expressed interest in investing in a new Israeli consortium developing the offshore oil fields near Haifa. With production slated to begin in 2012, it will be a new option for countries starving for energy. China is one of those countries, and clearly finds value in developing its defense and economic ties with Israel. This would add to the growing presence of China in Israel’s economy, which included the Carmel Tunnel and the Tel Aviv Light-Rail Project. China’s Yifang recently acquired Israel’s Pegasus Technologies. China is definitely interested in increasing its ties with Israel.

And that is precisely why they should be withheld.

More and more, the Chinese government has publicly come out against renewed sanctions against Iran. Further, Beijing has tried to frustrate the US by demonizing “cyber warfare” Washington is waging against Tehran. Neither of these positions serve Jerusalem’s interests. Compound these facts with Chinese support for North Korea and we are presented with an intolerable link with the Syria’s destroyed nuclear installation, attacked with a swift air strike in September 2007. All of this should be grounds for Israeli sanctions against Beijing.

Though the US has frustrated Israel itself by pressuring it to end its military trade with China, it is a move that is by far in Israel’s benefit even at a time where Israel’s government is resolved to challenge US pressure on Israeli policy. China has benefited from the military trade with Israel, roughly totaling $1.5 billion during the 1990s. Overall, Chinese exports to Israel represent about $3.5 billion, and even the mere threat that it could be cut off would be a sure sign that China cannot reap benefits from both Israel and Iran simultaneously.

China itself recognizes the need to wean itself off short-term investments in Iran, something it ought to be willing to make diplomatic concessions on in order to do so.

As part of a greater effort to either persuade or pressure the Chinese into supporting a stronger sanctions regime against Tehran, Israel should show signs it will strengthen its relationship with Japan at China’s expense. It is alsno not outside Israel’s periphery to cooperate with American-Taiwanese arms deals, like the clandestine Israeli transfer of American missiles to Taiwan in the 1980s.

According to Tel Aviv University’s Aron Shai there is much that Israel still has to offer China in terms of agriculture and energy. Those facts point directly to Israel’s leading desalinization technology and solar power markets. Limited access to oil’s alternatives would certainly limit China’s long-term development.

IT SHOULD be part of a larger strategy to increase Israel’s diplomatic presence globally. Currently, Israel’s relationship with developing powers like India, Brazil, Japan and Germany are limited to a single embassy and a handful of “honorary counsels.” If Israel is to be an eminent regional power, namely economic and technological, there should be an increased, professional consular presence in those countries’ major cities.


Former Prime Minister Olmert meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao

Besides China, the aforementioned states represent the future distributed centers of global power. Israel needs greater diplomatic leverage, especially in actually being able to sit in preeminent positions like the UN Security Council (something it has never done). An exemplar of new relationships would be to support UNSC reform to grant these countries their own vetos on the council.

Even without downgrading relations with China, there is reason to consider creating a consular presence in Japan and Taiwan. While total trade volume with China is about $4.5 billion, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs only reports a $2.11 billion relationship with Israel.

Israel and Japan have major common interests in terms of missile defense and particularly security concerns relating to North Korea. Yaacov Cohen of the Jewish Center for Public Affairs notes Japanese interest in virtually all major economic sectors active in Israel, including the same areas the Chinese would be.

Israeli security will not be served by rewarding a country that impedes it. Simultaneously, Israeli ties with Japan should be upgraded independent of whatever problems Israel and China have together.


Members of a Japanese Christian group known as Makuya wave Japanese and Israeli flags

Other sources not hyper-linked in the blog:

China and antiterrorism, Chapter: China and Israel – Strange Bedfellows 1948-2006, by Aron Shai

Strategic interests in the Middle East: opposition and support for US, Chapter 6: Japan between the United States and Middle East by George Ehrhardt

February 4, 2010

Graphic Map from War 4 Years Ago between Israel and Hezbollah

by Gedalyah Reback

February 2, 2010

The Rise of Periphery Jewish NGOs

by Gedalyah Reback

Having sat on Rutgers Hillel’s student board a couple times in my prime (my nostalgia for being a student shows), I’ve seen how difficult it is to maintain a popular center position for Jewish activists. The usually tame world of Jewish non-profits got some much unwanted and perhaps overdue excitement recently when the new Jewish student organization, Im Tirtzu, unleashed an attack against the New Israel Fund for making much of the Goldstone Report possible through its funding of certain NGOs in Israel. The response has been angry from the NIF, defending itself behind the ‘freedom of speech’ for sponsoring NGOs that choose to publish such reports.

What is happening is an inevitable outgrowth of a split among Jewish activists, where more left-wing and right-wing organizations are popping up, both in Israel and the United States. This dispute is linked to J-Street’s ruffling feathers last year premiering to counter AIPAC’s representation of Israeli interests in Washington.

But both conflicts are employing tactics of “guilt by association,” pointing to funding methods to smear rival non-profits. Im Tirtzu receives funds from Christian Zionist organizations in the United States, a fact J Street has pointed to in order to counter-attack the student union. But at the same time, J Street has received funding from Arabs and Muslims with similar political goals. This has been used by its detractors as a whip, as well.

Perhaps this points to the need for the Jewish community to examine whether it wants funding from groups outside the community. Then again, it would be a wasted conversation because the funding will continue.

It is not a simple matter of conflicting political views. It seems that all these organizations, while indeed representing the political periphery, are trying to claim the political center. Im Tirtzu, calling itself a “Second Zionist Movement,” states one of its central goals to be creating a “centrist political movement” according to its website. At the same time, J Street wants to “broaden the public and policy debate in the U.S. about the Middle East” as if it were not wide enough. Both organizations, among many, are calling for a shift, not reinforcing the center.

Many of the established organizations involved in this right-left chasm indeed have many questions to answer and criticisms to address. The Anti-Defamation League for instance has alienated even conservative Jews for ‘crying wolf’ too often. The New Israel Fund, separate from Im Tritzu’s accusations, indeed has given large funds to organizations advocating boycotts of Israel, plus ridding the country of its official Jewish character and Law of Return – would American Jewish donors be happy with continuing to fund those groups if they knew any better?

It’s difficult to tell any of these organizations they don’t hone in on positions at the current Jewish political center – a two state solution, revitalizing the Zionist movement, integrating Israel’s minorities, and attacking anti-Semitism. But taking the high ground has earned all these groups associations with people who do not necessarily have Israel’s or Jews’ best interests in mind.

I do not purport to support all the above-mentioned positions – a two-state solution is a good long term idea – but that puts me in the minority. It’s easier to support the latter three. Nevertheless, I am concerned that many groups have gotten to involved in particular causes, separating issues that are inextricably tied together and by default associating themselves with political extremes.

The political center in Jewish and Israel activism is facing dissent from both sides these days, perhaps reflecting the center’s weakness. More likely, the social networking age has enabled strong organizing on even the most peripheral political activists. Long periods of debate are ahead for the Jewish world – hopefully it all revolves around the community’s best interests.

Also see JJ Goldberg’s critique of J Street’s first convention for his take on its position between a left-wing political option and moderate organization.

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