Tag Archives | Israel

Popular in the United States, India is

Almost three out of four Americans have a positive impression of India

Here’s a chart based on the findings of the recent Gallup survey of public opinion in the United States:

Popularity among US residents

Chart: The Acorn | Data: Gallup 2011 Country Favourability Rankings

The mutual love fest continues. As we noted a few months ago, it’s set to continue because India is popular among the young. We do not have survey data, but it’s likely that the situation is mirrored in India.

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Pax Indica: The Palestinian Card

The First Law of Middle Eastern Geopolitics

In this fortnight’s Pax Indica column, I record Turkey’s breakout moment.

(It) was only when Turkey floated the flotilla to Gaza that people took notice. The successor to the Ottoman empire had announced its arrival.

The re-emergence of Turkey as a major power offers India the opportunity to balance its relationships with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. This calls for India to reorient its relationship with Turkey, identify common interests—managing China’s influence in Central Asia, for instance—and convert them into cooperative initiatives. That will also require Turkey to look beyond its relationship with Pakistan. In fact, this is the issue that will answer the big question: is Davutoglu’s neo-Ottomanism merely pan-Islamism or is it about Turkey’s national interests? If it is the former, then Turkey will allow its relationship with India to be constrained by its ties with Pakistan. Not so, if it is the latter. [Yahoo! India]

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Understanding Israel’s response to the flotilla

Making Israel look bad doesn’t help the Palestinians

The organisers of the “Freedom Flotilla”—a convoy of ships that intended to bust the Israeli blockade of Gaza—presented the Israeli government with a stark choice: stop the convoy and lose the global PR battle, or permit it and lose that and a whole lot more. In the event, it is not surprising that Israel chose the first option—and just lose the PR battle.

Was Israel’s reaction—its forces killed 10 activists and injured several more—disproportionate? That’s a difficult judgement to make. After all, what is a proportionate response to deter non-state actors from violating its authority without any fear of consequences? If, instead of a ‘flotilla’, some state’s navy had attempted to violate the blockade, it would well have been interpreted as an act of war. Why should non-state actors be treated differently? The Israeli government was justified in preventing non-state actors from challenging its authority.

But could Israel’s reaction have been less forceful? Could the Israelis have turned the ships back without using lethal force? Perhaps yes. If you go by the official Israeli version of events, that is exactly what they say they first attempted. They used lethal force only when the activists on the ship put up a fight. The flotilla’s floaters might deny this and argue that they didn’t expect violence. This is disingenuous. It is also unbelievable. They should have foreseen such a scenario before putting civilian activists in harm’s way. It is unclear if there were unambiguous rules of engagement, communicated to the activists and to the Israeli authorities. In the event, the organisers cannot escape their part of the responsibility for the unfortunate casualties.

For their part, the organisers of the convoy won the global PR battle. To what end, though? It’s not as if the Palestinian case needs to be made to the world’s governments (even if it has to be made for another generation of television audiences). The solution to the age-old Israel-Palestinian conflict involves compromises that both sides have to make, which the rest of the world can then support. Actions by outsiders that encourage both sides to compromise are helpful. Actions that attempt to paint one side of the conflict as the villain are not. Infuriating the Israeli government might allow the flotilla’s organisers to score political points and make the Israeli government look bad in front of the world’s television audiences. But it is unlikely to make it any easier for the Israeli government to make the difficult compromises necessary to move towards a solution.

As Yaakov Katz, a commentator in the Jerusalem Post concludes:

Let’s not fool ourselves. Even if Israel allowed these ships and all such ships to dock in Gaza City’s harbor, it would still be accused of laying siege to the Palestinians in the Strip since, albeit along with Egypt, it controls the land crossings.

In the end, after all, the flotilla is just another chapter in an international campaign to chip away at Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself. [Jerusalem Post]

Update:

[1] See Galrahn’s post at Information Dissemination for a discussion on the legality of Israel’s actions.

[2] Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard university, explains why Israel’s actions were lawful but unwise.

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Riyadh passes the buck, and wins a round

Understanding the Saudi Arabian position on sanctions on Iran

Just what did the Saudi foreign minister mean when he refused to back international sanctions on Iran “because we are closer to the threat (and therefore an ) need immediate resolution rather than gradual resolution”? Riyadh’s position is surprising not least because, as it transpired at a recent conference in Abu Dhabi, organised by NYU’s Centre for International Co-operation and Brookings, the Gulf states stridently called upon China to recognise which side of the Persian Gulf it had more at stake and stop shielding Iran from UN sanctions. [Richard Gowan has more about the conference over at Global Dashboard]

And more importantly, just what does is the “immediate resolution” that Prince Saud al-Faisal called for? As Dan Drezner suggests (linkthanks Pragmatic Euphony) these could only mean a deniable nod for preventive air strikes by Israel or a signal that Riyadh will activate its contingency plan for its own nuclear deterrent.

So what could this be about? The answer, in all likelihood, is that Saudi Arabia just passed the buck.

In the event this is about encouraging the United States and Israel to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Saudi Arabia benefits to the extent its regional rival suffers while it is the United States and Israel that will attract Muslim anger across the world.

If, on the other hand, the United States & Israel—wisely—do not use force against Iran, Riyadh can blame Washington for being unable to prevent Iran’s nuclearisation and exercise its options to procure its own deterrent. Iran is unlikely to attack Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons anyway, leaving Israel as the net loser. Like India, Israel will have to contend with “jihad under the protection of a nuclear umbrella”.

Either way, Saudi Arabia wins.

In contrast, if it indeed had backed sanctions against Iran, it would have to do its share of the dirty work of having to persuade China to stop protecting Iran. Beijing would extract a price for its acquiescence equal to, if not exceeding the loss to its commercial interests in Iran, which Riyadh would have to substantially bear. In the end, all these costs would come to nought, because sanctions are unlikely to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In the unlikely event that sanctions do work, the outcome would effectively be one where Saudi Arabia would have paid for Israel’s security. It’s not hard to see why the Saudis didn’t back sanctions.

What happens next? It’s unlikely that Riyadh will be satisfied with a US nuclear umbrella even if it were offered by Washington. If Iran proceeds with its plans to build a nuclear weapon, we will discover who Pakistan was making all that fissile material for.

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Bibi or Tzipi?

Martin Sherman’s lowdown of the Israeli general elections

General elections in Israel have thrown up what Indians know as a hung parliament. Tzipi Livni’s Kadima and Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s Likud have 28 and 27 Knesset seats respectively, which will require them to form a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (16 seats) or Ehud Barak’s Labour Party (13 seats), or indeed, with each other.

The Acorn asked Israeli scholar Martin Sherman to give us his opinion.
Continue Reading →

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Movements that just won’t take off

Selective outrage

In his piece on the readiness with which people come out on the streets to protest against Israel, Mark Steyn writes:

Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let’s take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift. [Mark Steyn/National Review]

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An all-American dogma the size of Iran

The solution is staring at Barack Obama’s face—if he has the audacity to grasp it

It is good to hear General Petraeus acknowledge that Iran “had common interests with the United States and other nations in a secure Afghanistan.” Although he hinted that such interests might make talks with Iran feasible, he said he would leave the topic to diplomats and policy makers.

“I don’t want to get completely going down that road because it’s a very hot topic,” General Petraeus told a conference…Nonetheless, he said, “there are some common objectives and no one I think would disagree.”

Like the United States, Iran is concerned about the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and the resurgence of extremists there, he said. “It doesn’t want to see Sunni extremists or certainly ultrafundamentalist extremists running Afghanistan any more than other folks do,” he said, while acknowledging that the United States and Iran have “some pretty substantial points of conflict out there as well.” [NYT]

And the most substantial point of conflict is Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. Yet, it may well be that the best way to convince Iran to temper its quest for nuclear weapons might well be for the United States to engage it politically. After all, hostility with the United States and Israel is one key reason why Iran seeks those weapons (the Saudi Arabia-Pakistan nuclear nexus is another).

In fact, it is amazing how the US foreign policy establishment is thinking up options and throwing up names for special envoys without questioning whether the holy cow, or rather the holy taboo, of not engaging Iran is a position that has run its course (if it was ever tenable in the first place). If intellectual blinkers and dogma prevent US policymakers from considering the merits of engaging Iran, what prevents countries like India that would benefit from a US-Iran rapprochement from lubricating it? There is a need for strong, credible voices to support the likes of General Petraeus in helping the United States break the ice with Iran.

Aside: The word “ultrafundamentalist” now enters the lexicon thanks to General Petraeus. As for “ultrafundamentalist extremists”, now, there’s way too much redundancy built into that phrase.

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Pragati July 2008: A better connection with Israel

Issue 15 - Jun 2008
Issue Contents

PERSPECTIVE

“Adamant for drift, solid for fluidity”
India needs leadership and a renaissance in its foreign policy
Harsh V Pant

Business interests vs national interests
As Indian companies grow abroad
Sameer Wagle & Gaurav Sabnis

The myth of illiberal capitalism
Multi-polarity, democracy and what the US might do about them
Dhruva Jaishankar

FILTER

A survey of think-tanks
The post-American world; Asian geopolitics
Vijay Vikram

IN DEPTH

The India-Israel imperative
Indo-Judeo commonalities: the symbolic and the substantive
Martin Sherman

ROUNDUP

Fruits of knowledge
Apply knowledge-economy processes for food security
Mukul G Asher & Amarendu Nandy

Needed: A new monsoon strategy
The focus should be on groundwater recharge
Tushaar Shah

BOOKS

Know your consumer?
A review of Rama Bijapurkar’s We are like that only
Aadisht Khanna

Read excerpts | Subscribe

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A rogue UN body

The UN Human Rights Council is out-of-control

If you thought that the UN Human Rights Council was a farce, think again. It is an out-of-control outfit that has come to become a handmaiden of states that are the worst abusers of human rights.

You have read about its upside down sense of priorities. You have seen how it has perverted even the definition of human rights. And you have seen how its special rapporteur stepped way out of line while ‘auditing’ India’s record.

Well, the latest outrage from the UNHRC is the appointment of Richard Falk as its special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories. The problem is that Professor Falk is far from level-headed: he is a person who sees little difference in the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

As David Aaronovitch writes

The implication of this logic is simple. The UN Human Rights Council doesn’t give a toss about the human rights of the Palestinians in the sense of wanting them upheld. Its majority is far more interested in using Israel as a stick to beat the US with, or – in the case of Islamic states – as a bogeyman to dampen down domestic discontent. [Times]

Reason’s Michael Moynihan calls Professor Falk a ‘rogue rapporteur’. The problem lies deeper. The UNHRC is a rogue organisation. Instead of politically correct pussyfooting, the appropriate response for countries that do take their constitutional commitments to human rights seriously is not to dignify it by their continued participation.

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Turkish delight

India should welcome the proposal to secure Central Asian gas through Turkey and Israel

Indrani Bagchi reports on an exciting new development. Ali Babacan, Turkey’s foreign minister, has proposed a plan to deliver Central Asian oil and gas through a combination of supertankers and overland pipelines in Turkey and Israel.

(Oil) from Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and even Georgia be transported through Turkey’s massive pipeline infrastructure to Ceyhan port. Traveling through the Mediterranean Sea in super tankers, the oil will then be fed into Israel’s Ashkelon-Eilat pipeline, while super tankers pick it off from the Gulf of Aqaba port of Eilat and back again on super tankers to India.

Turkish officials pointed out that none of the pipelines will have to be built. They are already in existence. The Ashkelon-Eilat pipeline is a functioning one, as is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which started work in 2006. Tel Aviv and Ankara have announced plans to carry water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel by way of a proposed Ceyhan-Ashkelon-Eilat passage. So, its not difficult to imagine gas coming through this passage, though this will need liquefaction and gasification terminals, which are a longer term investment. [TOI]

The supply chain involves multiple links, but is likely to be less risky compared to overland pipelines through Afghanistan and Pakistan. (The headline writers at the Times have been a little too excited—this project need not be an ‘alternative’ to buying gas from Iran. And a pipeline is not the only way to buy Iranian gas.)

Now, promoters of this Central Asia-Turkey-Israel project are bound to claim that it will lead to cheaper supplies—be that as it may, what is important is that having access to fuel supplies via this route is consistent with a strategy of diversification of supply sources. As advocated by this blog, India’s energy security lies in competitive markets.

India should take up Turkey’s offer and commence exploratory negotiations forthwith. And while this deal is worked out, the central government should lose no time in announcing a policy of investing in several oil & gas processing terminals along its seaboards. For Turkey’s proposal shows that there are more such projects in the pipeline.

Related Links: On Israel’s Eilat-Ashkelon project; and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline

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