Israel and China

From a short piece I wrote in 2005 about US pressure on Israel to curtail technological cooperation with China or be excluded from US defense projects.  A tricky situation for Israel:

The excerpt of a recent FT article below talks about the US excluding Israel from the development of the next generation of fighter jets because of American concerns about sharing technology with a country exporting military technology to China.  Israel faces a dilemma regarding China.  Israel cannot keep all its foreign policy eggs in one basket.  Right now, on issues like the Security Fence and maintaining major settlements, Israel has one ally in the world and one ally only, and that is George W. Bush.  However, given currents of opinion running in the American body politic, one can imagine a less pro-Israel administration in the not-too-distant future.  Bush was the first president to say that some West Bank settlements will stay as part of any final agreement.  However, the US is now putting some pressure on Israel regarding the expansion of Maale Adumim, a key settlement near Jerusalem, as well as regarding technology transfer to China. 

I thought about this back at election time (2004), that the ghost of Jim Baker, George H.W. Bush’s seemingly less-pro-Israel Sec. of State, might come back to haunt Israel in a George W. Bush second term.  Yet I believe that Sharon and Co. might be missing an historic opportunity.  It appears that they are trying to quash Abu Mazen’s efforts to do a final status deal sooner rather than later.  Sharon and Co. appear to be pursuing a strategy of stopping the peace process at least temporarily with disengagement from Gaza.  While I have sympathy with this approach, because the Palestinian position is so far away from what a fair deal should be, Israel may be missing an historic opportunity in George W. Bush to hammer out a deal with the Palestinians within the next four years, with a US president who supports keeping most Jewish settlements where they are.  The next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will likely be less unilateralist and more sympathetic to the European/Arab line that all the settlements are illegal.  So, it is arguable that it behooves Israel to do what the US says on China and to try and accelerate a US-brokered deal with the Palestinians, however painful that may be (especially regarding internal Israeli tensions) — even though it may prove difficult to get an agreement done by the end of Bush’s term. 

Yet longer term, in regard to China, China is rising, growing near 10% per year, expanding influence, affecting markets for oil, metals, capital, etc., destined without a doubt to be a major power in intl relations, and ultimately a challenger to the United States.  China’s rise is the story many of us are missing because of the focus on Al Qaeda and Iraq.  China too has a small Muslim insurgency on its fringes and has common interests with Israel in combating Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia and in accessing Israeli technology.  And, it’s not far-fetched to imagine in the next 50 yrs, US sentiment toward Israel hewing more toward the current European line, in which case it would be nice if Israel had some other big friends.  A tough predicament for Israel, but perhaps right now Israel should suck it up and do what the US wants regarding China at least for the remaining years of this administration (and there are good reasons for an arms embargo on China, including its threatening posture toward Taiwan).  Memories are short in intl relations and Israel could seek to heal any rifts with China once it has extracted US support on maintaining settlements as part of a deal with the Palestinians.  An awful lot of wishful thinking…


Excerpt of FT article:

The US has sidelined Israel from participating in developing the Joint Strike Fighter because of violations of agreements about arms sales to China, says a senior defence official.

The official said the US was still committed to selling the JSF to Israel. But he said Israel would be excluded from discussions about developing the next-generation fighter until China concerns had been resolved.

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