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Let’s Be Friends

November 9, 2017

by: Rev. Cheryl L. Hauer

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a strong leader and skilled politician who has navigated Israel through some very rough waters. However, of late he is revealing a new skill, one he has often been accused of lacking in the past—that of diplomat. While the historic Africa–Israel summit has been postponed for the time being, the prime minister has not been deterred from his newfound passion for making friends.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri (wikimedia)

In late September, he became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to make the trip to Latin America where he visited the presidents of Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. It is no coincidence that this diplomatic mission was held during the 70th anniversary year of the United Nations vote on partition. Of the 33 votes that solidified statehood for Israel, nearly half (13) were from Latin American and Caribbean nations.

The last stop on his historic trip was New York where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, informing that world body of Israel’s growing network of partners around the globe. He stressed the importance of what Israel has to offer the world while making it clear that his country stands ready to defend itself against those non-friendly nations who are bent on its destruction.

Who’s Who in this World of Diplomacy

The prime minister, in a recent address to the Israeli Knesset, spoke of the international community in categories of friendship: old friends, new friends, potential friends and very few enemies. As a matter of fact, there are only five nations on his enemy list. He spoke of Israel’s 30 long-standing allies as the “old friends;” 20+ budding relationships as “new friends;” and Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea as Israel’s only enemies. That means the other 140 or so nations of the world are just friends Israel hasn’t made yet. The prime minister’s recent diplomatic efforts have had startling results, increasing the likelihood that the list of allies will just keep growing.

The United States occupies the top spot on the old friends list, and the Trump presidency has served only to strengthen that relationship. During Netanyahu’s Security Council address, he spoke several times of President Trump’s fiery, no-holds-barred speech, calling it historic and courageous. Israel has never in its history had a friend at the UN like US Ambassador Nikki Haley. Also on the old friends list are Canada, Australia and all of Europe.

But the new friends list is really proof of the effectiveness of Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts. On it is Russia with whom Israel has signed a wide array of cooperative agreements in recent months including military coordination in Syria. Israel’s free trade agreement with China puts it on the list of allies together with Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Recent normalization with Turkey, a 30% increase in trade with India and increased cooperation with Greece and Cyprus put them on the new friends list as well.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain (wikimedia)

Israel’s bloc of allies in Africa is also impressive. A dozen African nations have come out strongly in favor of Israel in recent months. Perhaps Netanyahu’s most remarkable diplomatic results, however, have been among some of Israel’s traditional enemies—Arab states in the Middle East. Although Saudi Arabia has no official diplomatic relations with Israel, the unofficial relationship has grown significantly in recent years. A Saudi official was recently quoted as saying, “With Israeli money and Saudi minds, there is nothing [we] cannot accomplish.” In 2015, Israel sent its first diplomatic mission to the United Arab Emirates. Existing treaties with Egypt and Jordan are critical to stability in the region, and Egypt is Israel’s partner in fighting terrorism in the Sinai. Recently, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain defied a long-standing Arab boycott of Israel and gave his citizens the freedom to actually visit the Jewish state whenever they liked.

The End Game

 For years, the international community could see only one door that would open the world to Israel, and that was peace with the Palestinians. But in an interview earlier this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “The underlying assumption was that if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians, which we wanted and still want, it will open the world to us. There’s no doubt that would help, but the world is opening even without it.”

As Israel develops ties with nations around the world, it is penetrating a huge international market in ways unheard of in the past. The tiny nation is a giant in the high tech industry, and countries large and small are signing agreements worth billions to make Israeli technology their own. Sub-Saharan African nations as well as Saudi Arabia and other countries with arid climates are in desperate need of Israel’s water technology.

Countries from the United States to Southeast Asia, Africa to China, are better able to feed their populations due to Israeli agricultural innovation. Fish farms in America and dairy farms in China and Thailand are improving productivity using state-of-the-art Israeli technology. Israel’s knowledge and experience in the area of counter-terrorism is sought after by countries increasingly dealing with terror on their own shores, and Israel’s prowess in the area of defense is resulting in contracts with nations the world over. With these growing relationships comes support in the international community and most important of all, at the United Nations.

Truly, the door to the nations is opening. Some would say it is strictly the result of the technology and innovation that Israel brings to the nations. Others would say it is because of the diplomatic proficiency of Netanyahu and his team. Others, however, would have a simpler answer. It is biblical prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 61:9; Zechariah 8:11–13).

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