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Israel’s soft power boosts its diplomatic efforts

Contrary to what some had expected, the ambassadors of Arab countries at the UN failed to secure the necessary nine Security Council votes required for the Jordanian draft resolution calling for an end to Israel’s occupation within the next two years. Hearing that two African countries abstained, Nigeria and Rwanda, should not have been a surprise. During the Security Council deliberations during the Israeli war on Gaza last summer, these two countries gave Israel room to manoeuvre and continue its killing and destruction by thwarting all attempts to get a resolution to end its aggression, again by abstaining in the crucial votes.

This is interesting because African countries have traditionally voted in favour of all draft resolutions supportive of Palestinian rights. The significant shift in this position is a result of the Israeli strategy in international relations by which it utilises its development of advanced technology as a diplomatic bargaining tool. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman formulated the simple strategy whereby countries are offered access to Israeli technology in exchange for diplomatic support. Although associated mainly with the genocide 20 years ago, Rwanda has been courted by Israel for a decade or more, spending large sums in order to improve relations with the central African state.

With its embassy in Kigali monitoring results closely, Israel’s diplomatic offensive has included support for farmers in Rwanda. Channel 10 Television in Israel broadcast a report in July showing Ambassador Avi Granot walking in the fields speaking to Rwandan farmers and checking on their agricultural produce.

Further east, there is no doubt that one of the resounding success stories of Israel’s export of advanced technologies is that India is very keen on improving relations with Tel Aviv. The Hind, India’s most popular newspaper, has revealed that the government in New Delhi is on the verge of reconsidering how it votes on international resolutions relating to Palestine.

According to the Hind, there is growing intent among India’s leaders to refrain from voting on any issue linked to the Palestinian cause in the international arena. This is a major turning point as India was, until recently, a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which had a default position of supporting the Palestinians. Despite the fact that the bloc no longer exists, the shift in India’s international positions will have an impact on the behaviour of other countries. As in Africa, the Indian shift is a result of smart Israeli investment in “national” resources.

India has discovered Israel’s high-tech market, for military and civilian purposes, to such an extent that the latter more or less owes its existence to India’s hunger for military technology. The Indian government no longer imports weapons from America, being content with Israeli products. The change in India-Israel relations was not due to the recent electoral victory of the extreme right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi. His government has strengthened relations with Tel Aviv due to its need for the kind of advanced technology which Israel can supply.

Technology has also played a key role in the development of relations between Israel and China. It is true that no one would expect the Chinese to behave like the African countries in international votes, but it is clear that Beijing is showing a great deal of interest in improving relations with Tel

Aviv, again due to its desire to benefit from Israel’s advanced technology capabilities. During his visit to Israel four months ago, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi surprised his hosts when he asked to visit the Wailing Wall. He told the Chief Rabbi at the Wall that he intended to keep the kippah (small head covering) that he was asked to wear like all other visitors and take it back to Beijing. The minister went out of his way to explain to the rabbi how happy he felt by visiting the site. No one really believed Wang Yi, as they know the official Chinese position regarding religion, but they acknowledged that the minister was trying his best to cosy up to public opinion in Israel, having fully understood the potential of relations with Tel Aviv.

China is interested in Israel’s advanced technology to boost its economic capability, especially in industry and agriculture. The Israeli Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett, distributes a lot of audio-visual material on his Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to demonstrate how much the Chinese are actually benefitting from his country’s technology. The message that the leader of the religious far right-wing Jewish Home Party is trying to spread is that Israel can utilise its success and superiority in advanced technology to improve its international standing and strengthen relations with influential countries without having to make any concessions to the Palestinians. The Israelis are aware that Beijing is keen on establishing security and intelligence cooperation with Tel Aviv; Yossi Cohen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor, makes frequent visits to China for discussions in this respect.

In short, Israel’s advanced technology developments have become its most prominent soft power tool for boosting diplomatic ties and improving its position in the world, enhancing its own security in the process. This is almost the complete opposite of the behaviour of the Arab countries, whose bilateral relations with foreign states are not subject to national security requirements. Instead, some Arab countries do not hesitate to play a functional role for the benefit of Israel, usually at the behest of the United States. While Israel plans and builds for its future, the Arab states are very short-sighted and bargain away their future for short-term gains. Israel is using its soft power to great advantage in more ways than one.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 2 January 2015

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