Israel-America’s Alliance at Risk due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the global economy in the last few months, leading to a popular agenda of criticism blaming China for the health crisis. Many world leaders and economists calling for actions against China, specifically in the form of economic sanctions, in order to ‘teach China a lesson’ through cutting financial agreements and trade deals with both the government and businesses.

One of these voices is President Trump, who has asked Israel to side with America in the economic war he has declared on China. Trump requested Israel freeze and disconnect any financial agreements with China, in light of the voluminous investments of China in Israel.

Should Israel listen to its long-time ally or think of its own interests? On one hand, it seems as though there is no bright future for Israel with America, as relations between the two is under jeopardy for several reasons. If this is the case, Israel should side with China in order to continue to cultivate a recovering market.

COVID-19 has affected families from low to high socioeconomic statuses. Specifically, Jewish communities of North America are considering their monthly expenses and may decide giving up on some luxuries, such as private Jewish education (popular in the Jewish diaspora), summer camps, memberships at Jewish institutions (such as the JCC or Federation). All of these are educational platforms which provide the community with Jewish education, including Zionist values and the love for Israel. In the absence of such programs and support, strong Zionist Jewish leadership will likely dwindle in the following years – leading to less influence of a Jewish lobby in America.

Such a scenario will place Israel’s legitimacy under scrutiny and risk in America. For example, since the 2008 financial crisis, Jewish families have increasingly decided to not send their children to Jewish educational programs, mainly due to high tuition. In addition, many of these programs are supported by American Jewish philanthropists who usually deliver generous funds to Israel – in order to develop the ‘country of milk and honey.’ In times of crisis, this funding halts. People donate less in order to save more for a ‘dark day’, or in order to help their home and proximal community.

In such cases, the huge financial investment of American into Israel narrows. Specifically, this occurs as America needs to focus on recovering their own economy; drastically affected by the pandemic. While Israel relies on its relatives overseas, it should not forget that while they’re Jewish, they’re also Americans.

The money that is usually intended to serve as aid for Israel will help domestic rehabilitation, leaving Israel to look for other partnership opportunities. One of these possible partners is China, which can fill the necessary gap in the form of financial aid; which is based on local Israeli investments. Current Chinese investments in Israel, especially in Hi-Tech, are a clear example of these investments today. While America still serves as Israel’s first export destination, in the past 4 years, it’s export to China has increased by 140%. The political game between Israel, the U.S. and China is on the rise, involving trade agreements. While America is asking Israel to back down from these agreements to stay on America’s side in this economic ‘cold war’, it’s time for Israel to observe what will help to produce a higher, faster product. China is the right answer, as America still dealing with the health crisis and its market didn’t completely re-open yet.

Israel should understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is a major turnout point, which will shift the global economic chess game, pushing America back and China ahead – in relation to Israel. With the forecasts showing that China will become the world’s largest economy in the near future, it’s Israel’s time to re-think of its long-time economic strategy.

Just as America thinks of its interests first, Israel should do the same. Relying on pure loyalty, which isn’t derived from inner motives, is to bury your head in the ground in this new world era. Israel should maximize the opportunities China can offer it and keep the positive line of putting the economic crisis behind it, assisting covering the deficit by passing the storm as soon as possible.

About the Author
Liraz was born and raised in Israel. After serving as an analyst in the IDF, he worked for four years at a Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin. In 2015 Liraz moved to New York to serve as the Jewish Agency Emissary at the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County. At IDC, Liraz is a third-year government, diplomacy and strategy student and participates in the Honors' program Argov Fellowship for Leadership and Diplomacy. He also took part in the MICS (Media in Conflicts Seminar) and the ISCA (Israeli Students Combating Antisemitism) programs. In addition, he participated in the Ambassadors Club and the StandWithUs fellowship. He speaks Hebrew, English, Spanish and spoken Arabic and is interested in pursuing a career dealing with Israel's international relations and worldwide image.