A little over half a year ago, China brokered a historic deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This deal was China’s first major foray into Middle-Eastern politics and signalled the end of Western domination of the region, which had been kept steady since the dissolution of the USSR in the early 1990s. The move came around a year and half after the poorly orchestrated American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which had left a vacuum for China to begin making inroads and coordinating with regional powers, such as Iran. European powers sensed the shift in the geopolitical landscape, with France’s Macron making an important visit to Beijing in April, and many began to wonder how China’s increasing influence as a world power would affect diplomatic ties between Israel and China’s chief rival, the United States.
In June, news broke of a Chinese invitation extended to Israel’s Prime Minister to visit President Xi Jinping in Beijing, coming amidst an unprecedented cooling of relations between Israel and the United States which resulted in a deferment of Israeli requests to schedule a similar meeting with President Biden at the White House. In fact, many political analysts interpreted the Chinese invitation as a direct snub at Biden, a tit-for-tat for American interference in the domestic political strife that had engulfed Israeli society. The state visit never did occur, and if it had, it may have prevented this tragedy.
The current war is not a result of a critical intelligence oversight, a narrative favored by most Western and Israeli media, but rather a concerted effort by Western actors, led by the United States, to isolate Israel from Chinese, and, to a lesser extent, Russian influence, by monopolizing Israeli diplomatic channels and restricting Israel from engaging directly with non-Western channels in Europe. In essence, I blame America’s hegemonic pursuits for Israel’s inability to maneuver successfully within the changing dynamics of the emerging bipolar world. Such limitations not only hampered Israel’s ability to gather important intelligence on Iran and its proxies, but also severely reduced any diplomatic leverage Israel may have been able to apply on Iran through strengthened relations with China. To add insult to injury, the U.S. even doubled down, stubbornly pursuing an ill-conceived and immoral accord between Israel and Saudi Arabia which threatened not only to snub Palestinian interests, but to realign the Saudis with the West, further angering the Chinese and putting Israel in the undesirable position of contested proxy.
However, as you can well imagine, Israel cannot simply disengage from Western influence after decades of dependence on American interests. The American hold on the Israeli government is stronger than ever, evidenced by the repeated attempts by Israeli political actors to involve President Biden and former Ambassador Nides in the internal politic conflict surrounding the judicial reform. In many ways, Israel has developed a near-complete dependence on the American government and a truly unhealthy obsession with American culture and values. Israel’s dogged insistence on identifying with the United States, while ignoring the blatant challenges that America’s liberal, democratic values pose to the continued occupation of the Palestinians, and the ethnocratic society engendered by Zionist ideology (separation of church and state?), not only expose the inherent incoherent and duplicitous nature of Israeli-Jewish identity, but also serve to embolden Israel’s enemies by portraying Israelis as a complacent, unenlightened and weak-minded people, unwilling to defend even their own autonomy. Less than a week ago, PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas stated “America is occupying Palestine,” seemingly unwilling to even grant the Israelis the status of adversary.
In order to secure its stability, Israel must concede its relative weaknesses compared to other world and regional players, and approach the current state of geopolitics multilaterally, without exclusively favoring any one power. To do so, Israel must first make amends with her European neighbors, and through their mediation, find the appropriate Palestinian representatives to deal with responsibly. The way I see it, Israel will have to make a difficult decision: Either become a secular, non-Zionist democracy, or evolve into a sectarian, ethno-religious state. I propose a middle ground: a shared civil political sphere alongside a system of autonomous religious communities (or churches). To put it simply: Israel must concede that Judaism is also a religion.