I lift Mine Eyes unto the East
Last week Shimon Peres ascended the podium at a Waldorf Astoria dinner in New York and declared the following in front of a crowd of diplomats, civic, political and religious leaders, “People often say that Israel is isolated. I don’t believe this is true, please allow me to explain.”
He proceeded to list the world’s most populated countries and embellish on their blossoming ties with Israel. Starting with China, that has a population of almost 2 billion with which trade has increased over the last 18 years, when formal relations were established, from $42 million to over $6 billion. Next on the list was India with a population of over 1 billion which was followed by the names of a number of other partners.
In a recent interview with Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, the Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun, sounded like a man in love, “You might not know this,” he said, “but we in China admire you and your Jewish mind, which has brought many Nobel prizes. The free China was established in 1949, one year after Israel, but we view what you have achieved as a miracle. We are brothers, almost twins. We admire you for creating miracles for 62 years.”
Indian ties with Israel are now stronger than ever. India is the largest customer of Israeli military hardware and as of 2009 this trade is worth around $9 billion. India is also Israel’s second-largest economic partner and currently, the two nations are negotiating an extensive bilateral trade pact.
It is no secret that through the lens of macro economics, global power is shifting. While Eastern economies are growing at a spanking pace, growth in the United States has slowed, and debt is piling up. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that according to the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent projections, President Obama’s proposed budget for 2011 will add $10 trillion in debt over the next decade. By 2020, the federal government will owe $20 trillion, or $170,000 per household.
Defense spending has increased at a much slower rate than domestic spending in recent years. Even with the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, this year the Department of Defense will spend $720 billion- about 4.9% of GDP, significantly below the average 6.5% since World War II.
So what does all this mean for Israel? Specifically as the Obama administration continuously brings to bear enormous pressure on the Israeli Government that was most recently played out in the form of the Settlement Freeze Saga?
Obviously one certainly can’t hastily dismiss the US as a superpower, and politically China and India still have a long way to go in terms of their developing sentiments towards the Jewish state. After all, the US was the one of the only countries that didn’t outright condemn Israel over the recent Flotilla incident and it is also debatable whether China, with its questionable human rights record is morally a good country to get too close to.
But the good news is that it seems that the balance of power is directly tied into Israel’s interests. This US administration that pressures Israel to take actions that are against its interests, is also focused on the decentralization of American power and altering its role in the world and thus in the long term limiting its influence. Of course as we have seen historically, if a new administration came into power that was more focused on maintaining American strength, it would also understand the importance of maintaining Israel’s.
In the meantime, all Israeli efforts should be focused on making clear to the world and specifically the Indians and the Chinese that halting settlements equals a weaker Israel, and a weaker Israel is in nobody’s interest.
Whilst the impact on the immediate situation is limited, it seems like the shift of global power will create a political environment that will enable Israel to be more flexible in withstanding pressure from one particular country and doing correctly what it has always failed to do, namely to focus its energy on its interests and its interests only.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com