Israel’s Vital Neutrality

Perhaps the oddest outcome of the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from her critical role as world policeman is unprecedented global opportunities for a neutral, strong, vital and unfettered Israel.
As America shifts loyalties and becomes more “even-handed”, Israel is forced (and freed) to seek help elsewhere. Remarkably, she can leverage her technological superiority and newly developed natural resources to gain support now threatened from increasing American pressure. She can offer other states some backup lost by American withdrawal.
Israel may act autonomously in dealing with larger powers for several reasons. First, she has much vital to offer. Second, her back is persistently against the wall. Third, she has proven muscle, setting her relatively free to take decisive action yet to nuance positions when necessary. (Case in point – seizing the Mavi Marmara while later paying damages to families of dead activists to advance Turkish rapprochement.) Fourth and perhaps most important, she operates successfully on a very large scale, countering any combination of threat from far larger adversaries and earning her necessary respect from the Putins of the world.
American pacifism has let loose the dogs of war. Self-imposed weakness has led to predictable Mideast bloodbaths, renewed Russian imperialism, dramatically shifting alliances, European destabilization and the rise of savage Islamic radicalism world-wide. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States, Turkey and Israel all face emboldened enemies. Ukraine finds Russia annexing Crimea. China aggresses in the South China Sea while Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Australia wonder if their erstwhile protector can be counted upon when local push comes to global shove.
Israel needs a substantial foreign partner to help develop her own major weapons systems. Caroline Glick has suggested resuscitating the Lavi project with India in lieu of purchasing unacceptably American-controlled F-35 fighters (Jerusalem Post, Feb 2, 2016). Doors open to the north and east where Turkey, China, India and Japan find Israeli military innovation attractive while Israel finds larger countries’ industrial capacities and natural resources as plausible replacements. Projects such as missile defense systems currently under joint development with the US may find partners and financing elsewhere. For many years Israel has improved upon American military technology, for example adding unsurpassed avionics to F-15’s. The IDF’s choice of an airborne weapons platform has traditionally swayed between home production and import – home production depending upon American jet engines contributes to opting for import. American technology, however, is showing signs of losing its edge over Russian and Chinese. If this decline manifests itself and if Israel can find new partners, odd as it may seem, it might be Israel that opts out of American aid.
Israel walks a fine line but cannot be neutral where vital interests are at stake. She stays out of the Syrian hellfire but defends her border. A small state with a population of eight million faces hostile alliances of hundreds of millions. Palestinianism works overtime. With Europe crumbling under Islamization, can Israel realistically replace increasingly weak American support?
Exemplifying the answer is the painful fact that America has not just withdrawn but also has changed sides. Beneath the veneer of agreement, an ever more aggressive and inevitably nuclear Iran is free of American obstruction. By siding with the Shi’ites, America abandons justifiably threatened Sunni countries, who now turn to Israel for help. All but overt talks with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States confront the Iranian threat. War makes odd bedfellows. America engenders a peace between Arabs and Jews that she never had in mind.
We are witness to realpolitik at its best. Israel faces constant condemnation from the UN and Europe while few want to sever vital ties. Her neutrality in Greek and Turkish conflict in Cyprus enables her to offer vital natural gas to both. When everybody hates you, you can act in your own self-interest. You can make agreements that one side resents but cannot prevent when that side too needs part of the action. Perhaps the most valuable long-term resource Israel can offer as a powerful neutral is quiet honest brokerage between conflicting nations. She once offered to mediate between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea. Instead of a peace conference in Geneva, imagine a peace conference in Tel Aviv.
It seems laughable but it is not without significance that an all-expense-paid vacation to Israel is included in Oscar nominee swag bags this year. Little Israel’s outsized role in the world is moving beyond isolation versus acceptance, which she cannot even aspire to. Thanks to America, it is becoming vital.