Modi-Ne­tanyahu and the spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion


In a re­cent speech at the state me­mo­rial for David Ben-Gu­rion, Prime Minister Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said: “In nor­mal times, a leader must be at­ten­tive to the hearts of the peo­ple... but in the times of cri­sis, when mak­ing crit­i­cal de­ci­sions in the field of se­cu­rity, the pub­lic can­not al­ways be a part­ner in the cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions that must be con­cealed from the en­emy.”

Amid the high es­ca­la­tion by Ha­mas, pres­sure from his cabi­net col­leagues and some sec­tions of the me­dia and pub­lic, Ne­tanyahu has again demon­strated his abil­ity to stand firm for the larger se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of Is­rael. In vi­brant democ­ra­cies like In­dia and Is­rael, where the pop­u­lar sen­ti­ments do not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent the voice of the com­mon peo­ple, the wis­dom of a leader is the key. In In­dia, dur­ing the last four-anda-half years, Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi has taken some tough and non-con­ven­tional moves, which yielded high crit­i­cism in the be­gin­ning, but ul­ti­mately re­sulted in strength­en­ing coun­try’s strate­gic pos­tures.

Af­ter the sign­ing of Camp David Ac­cords, for­mer prime minister and the founder of Likud Party Me­nachem Be­gin said: “In the Jewish teach­ings, there is a tra­di­tion that the great­est achieve­ment of a hu­man be­ing is to turn his en­emy into a friend, and this we do in rec­i­proc­ity.” When it comes to se­cu­rity and diplo­matic ini­tia­tives, Ne­tanyahu has sus­tained Be­gin’s legacy, and it is vis­i­ble in Is­rael’s grow­ing diplo­matic lever­age.

To­day, Is­rael is ex­pand­ing its re­la­tions with African and Gulf states, a cru­cial break­through which no one imag­ined be­fore. In early July 2016, Ne­tanyahu be­came the first sit­ting Is­raeli pre­mier in decades to travel to Africa when he vis­ited four East African na­tions: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Since then the fre­quency of talks, ex­changes and bi­lat­eral vis­its be­tween Is­rael and African coun­tries has in­creased.

In Oc­to­ber, Ne­tanyahu vis­ited Oman, an Arab-Mus­lim state. Shortly af­ter, Trans­porta­tion and In­tel­li­gence Minister Is­rael Katz also trav­eled to Oman to at­tend an in­ter­na­tional trans­porta­tion con­fer­ence, where ac­cord­ing to some me­dia re­ports, he dis­cussed plans to link the Mediter­ranean to the Gulf by rail via Is­rael.

In­ter­est­ingly, in the cur­rent tide of Is­rael’s grow­ing ex­changes with African and Gulf states, the key talk­ing points are Is­raeli in­no­va­tions, tech­nolo­gies and ways to com­bat mu­tual chal­lenges. In a way, Ne­tanyahu has started a pos­i­tive trend of en­gage­ments in the re­gion.

In In­dia, Modi, in his very first term has earned the recog­ni­tion of be­ing a cham­pion of for­eign re­la­tions. His for­eign pol­icy – some­times called the “Modi Doc­trine” – is seen as a fresh ap­proach to diplo­macy. The Act East Pol­icy, SA­GAR (Se­cu­rity and Growth for All in the Re­gion), Neigh­bor­hood First Pol­icy and Link West types of pol­icy im­pro­vi­sa­tions, com­bined with his per­sonal charisma, have strength­ened In­dia’s strate­gic pos­ture in many ways.

Whether it in­volves coun­tries of Africa, South­east Asia, or even Pa­cific Is­lands, In­dia’s frame­work of col­lab­o­ra­tion is based on the pri­or­i­ties and needs of those coun­tries. That is not a com­mon trend in the es­tab­lished cul­ture of for­eign re­la­tions.

THE EL­E­MENT of open­ness to di­a­logue in Modi and Ne­tanyahu’s for­eign pol­icy ap­proach is some­thing the world needs to­day. Modi of­ten says: “So­lu­tions to all prob­lems lie in di­a­logue.” Both lead­ers be­lieve in the strength of ideas and ef­fec­tive di­a­logue. The clar­ity in their ap­proach en­cour­ages oth­ers to end their hes­i­ta­tions of the past and to move one step fur­ther; build­ing such an at­mos­phere of en­gage­ments is cru­cial for the cul­ture of global geopol­i­tics.

The com­mon­al­i­ties in both lead­ers’ for­eign pol­icy ap­proaches have brought vi­brancy in the In­dia-Is­rael part­ner­ship too. The Modi-Ne­tanyahu era is con­sid­ered as the most promis­ing phase of the In­dia-Is­rael part­ner­ship which be­gan with Modi’s stand­alone visit to Is­rael, a move which has ended the cul­ture of the hy­phen­ated for­eign pol­icy of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments. Dur­ing their sub­se­quent vis­its, both lead­ers have demon­strated a high level of re­spect and friend­ship in their en­gage­ments. These kinds of ges­tures were miss­ing dur­ing for­mer prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to In­dia in 2003, which was the first visit of a sit­ting Is­raeli PM to In­dia.

Both lead­ers’ com­mit­ment for their own coun­tries trans­for­ma­tion has pushed this part­ner­ship to max­i­mize the com­mon meeting points with ini­tia­tives, i.e., the In­dia-Is­rael In­dus­trial R&D and Tech­no­log­i­cal In­no­va­tion Fund, the In­dia-Is­rael CEO fo­rum, the In­dia-Is­rael In­no­va­tion Bridge, a re­newed frame­work of the Indo-Is­raeli Agri­cul­ture Project, MoUs be­tween the space agencies of both sides, and the di­rect co­op­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives be­tween the dif­fer­ent state gov­ern­ments of In­dia and Is­rael. A num­ber of Is­raeli in­vestors and hi-tech en­trepreneurs are now ex­plor­ing ways to es­tab­lish in­no­va­tion hubs in In­dia and fur­ther es­tab­lish a net­work of like-minded as­so­ciates in In­dia for tap­ping global op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Some be­lieve that political ide­ol­ogy is a key fac­tor of mu­tual re­spect be­tween Modi and Ne­tanyahu. But a care­ful ob­ser­va­tion of both lead­ers’ ap­proach can re­veal that it’s not ide­olo­gies but their shared phi­los­o­phy that has played a key role in this part­ner­ship. While host­ing Modi on his first visit to Is­rael, Ne­tanyahu had said on a lighter note: “When I do a re­lax­ing Tadasana pose, in the morn­ing I’ll turn my head to the right, In­dia is the first democ­racy that I’ll see. And when Prime Minister Modi does a re­lax­ing pose of Va­sisthasana and he turns his head to the left, Is­rael is the first democ­racy that you can see.”

In­dia and Is­rael are not only sus­tain­ing the cul­ture of di­a­logue and demo­cratic val­ues among their non-demo­cratic and hege­monic neigh­bors, they are also en­cour­ag­ing them to get en­gaged in a pos­i­tive way. To deal with shared chal­lenges of our times coun­tries around the world need to join hands with a larger vi­sion. To­day, when many so­ci­eties and na­tions are be­com­ing more and more self-cen­tered and the spirit to tackle com­mon chal­lenges is fad­ing, Modi and Ne­tanyahu’s col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach can pro­vide a model of global co­op­er­a­tion.


PRIME MINISTER BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU with In­dian Prime Minister Na­hen­dra Modi.

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