Similarly, despite near-automatic condemnation of Israel’s supposed quick resort to military force, many states continue both to conduct military exercises with Israeli forces and to purchase arms from the Jewish State. In the past year alone, Israel has conducted military exercises with Greece, Poland, and Italy in addition to the largest joint military exercise in Israel’s history with the United States, dubbed Austere Challenge 2012. Romanian and Finnish air force chiefs paid visits to Jerusalem and Indian and Chinese warships made ports of call at Haifa. Moreover, Israel clinched major arms deals with Singapore, Colombia, India, Italy, and Azerbaijan—a Shiite Muslim country bordering Iran; Israel regularly sells systems to Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Brazil. In addition to its extraordinarily close military relationship with the United States, with annual joint exercises, co-proprietary missile defense programs, and officer exchanges, Israel bonds with the armed forces of other nations are only multiplying.
The Israeli economy is also at a high-point of global integration. In 2010, it was admitted into the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development), a 34-member club of Western-oriented countries committed to democracy and the free market. Israeli exports and imports were at all-time highs in 2012, trade with China and India grow annually at double-digit rates, and the EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner, accounting for around 30 percent of Israel’s total trade. Just this past October, the EU and Israel ratified the ACAA (Agreements on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products), meaning that the EU now certifies Israeli industrial standards as equal to European ones, easing the import, for example, of Israeli pharmaceutical products, which are already the 5th largest source for the EU. Israel has also signed several groundbreaking, potentially multi-billion dollar gas deals with Cyprus and Greece. In the next year, Israel likely will become the first non-European member of CERN, the Geneva-based physics organization, and will ratify an “Open Skies” agreement with the EU, which will allow both European and Israeli airlines to operate direct flights between any of their cities. Lastly, 2012 was a record year for tourists flocking to Israel, as the unraveling of the Arab revolts has cast Israel as an oasis of calm. Perhaps the definition of “isolation” should be changed.
By any measure, the last several years have been a high-point of Israeli integration into the international community. Trade, tourism, and military exchanges are booming and Israel has been admitted into several prestigious international organizations. It was even recognized by South Sudan, weeks after the latter’s independence, and hosted South Sudanese president Salva Kiir a few months later.
While there is no doubt that Europe, the Obama Administration, and the mainstream media have an ingrained indisposition towards Israeli settlement construction, Israel’s international diplomatic, military, and economic standing in the world have only been strengthened over the past two decades. Perhaps this conundrum is best exemplified by the July 2012 visit to Israel of José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, who, in the same speech in which he expressed concern over continued settlement building, said it best: “a continent such as Europe, that invests heavily in innovation, needs to have close links with a ‘start-up nation’, like Israel.”
Gabriel Scheinmann is a PhD student at Georgetown University and a visiting fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
Image: Flickr/Lilach Daniel. CC BY 2.0.