Israel's Revamped Policy of Peripheral Alliances
Following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel managed to deescalate its decades long conflict with the Arab world with an earnest effort to forge a peace process with the Palestinians with a goal to quell mutual hostility and acrimony. Over the last decade, however, the peace talks witnessed setbacks beginning in 2001, which subsequently led to an escalation in violence. Frustration with negotiations and actions taken by Israel’s leadership led to a militant campaign carried out by the PLO and other Palestinian factions, making Israel vulnerable to heightened security threats. This escalation hampered the Jewish state's diplomatic ties, especially with its one time regional ally, Turkey. Due to the escalation and its confrontation with ongoing diplomatic challenges, Israel has responded by returning to and employing an ‘old’ foreign relation policy in a new way.
Despite escalating sanctions and countless diplomatic attempts, Iran continues with the development of its nuclear program unabated. In addition, the recent unrest in several Arab nations is threatening to challenge the regional balance that Israel has come to depend on. Therefore, in response to these new conditions, Israel appears to be restoring its historic 'peripheral policy', by attempting to enhance its ties with non-Western political players.
Throughout its first decade of existence, Israel faced diplomatic and economic isolation at the hands of the Arab League and the Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In order to overcome this obstacle, Israel adopted a doctrine that aimed at securing alliances with the non-Arab nations that surrounded the Arab Middle East. Israel saw success with this doctrine, and by 1959, managed to establish strong ties with Iran, Turkey, and Ethiopia. These relations persisted until Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the downfall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah saw the strong ties between the two countries vanish in only a short time. More recently though, Israel has seen its once solid and strong alliance with Turkey waiver. This wavering was primarily seen with an Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, which was met with great criticism by Turkey. The situation was then exacerbated when nine Turkish nationals were killed in a confrontation with the Israeli military, when the former attempted to breach Israel's maritime blockade on the Strip in 2010.
Today, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has reached a stalemate - one that shows no signs of breaking amidst a divided Palestinian leadership. Thus, there are new indications that Israel is changing its focus in order to cope with this new status quo. The old but new strategy for Israel is to solidify bonds with non-Muslim and non-Arab countries, based on seeking out other nations which also struggle against Islamic extremism while showing the potential for shared economic benefits. Israel's interests will thus be served by committing to alliances that can substitute for the weakening strategic alliance once held with Turkey.
As a result, Israel has set its sights on Balkan states. Since 2010, Israel and Greece have experienced rapprochement in the wake of declining Israeli-Turkish ties and Greece's economic doldrums. Most recently, Israel and Cyprus have capitalized on their blooming relations with enhanced economic and security cooperation with regard to their recently discovered natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Israel continues to maintain productive ties with Romania and other Balkan countries, which have manifested in recent joint military aerial drills.
Israel is expanding further still by forging relationships inside of Africa. Since 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other high ranking Israeli officials have been meeting with their counterparts from predominately Christian African nations, including Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, amongst others. While the aforementioned African nations can benefit greatly from Israeli knowledge in the fields of security, infrastructure development, agriculture, and water utilization, Israel is also likely attempting to hinder Iran's recent economic interest in the African continent by establishing a presence and strong diplomatic ties in these nations.
As tensions have soared between Israel and Iran over the last few months, another stage of Israel's strategy has surfaced – strengthening ties with Georgia and Azerbaijan. According to several reports, Israel is operating military and intelligence gathering stations in both countries, which are in close vicinity to Iran. Such stations may currently assist in alleged clandestine operations within Iran aimed at delaying the development of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Therefore Israel will likely continue with its peripheral strategy and focus efforts to enhance ties with the world's most populated democracy – India. On January 9, India's Foreign Minister arrived in Israel, the first time in a decade, to boost bilateral affairs. India's rapidly growing economy, combined with its democratic character and ongoing conflict with Pakistani Islamic militant organizations, creates a natural environment for a security alliance to emerge amidst the already strong relations the two countries enjoy. One month after the historic visit, on February 13, an attack on an Israeli diplomat took place in India's capital, New Delhi. Although all signs point to Iran's involvement, Indian authorities chose not to reveal their findings up until March 16. Israel's silence during this time should be viewed as proof that the Jewish State is willing to make sacrifices to secure India's friendship and emphasize the new-found importance it is placing on the peripheral strategy amidst uncertainty in its immediate surroundings. Nimrod Asulin is an intelligence analyst at Max-Security Solutions, specializing in Israeli foreign affairs.