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