For years many the feeling was that Europe had unquestioned leverage with Israel and therefore could take sides without losing its clout. But trade and tech have taken their toll on this assumption. Israel is building alliances in Asia, and European leverage is sure to suffer.

Former Israeli foreign and defense minister, Moshe Arens, explains in Ha’aretz Why Israel is shifting eastward.

On reflection this is not totally unexpected. For many years the economic development of the countries in East Asia has been outpacing the economic development of Europe. Japan made giant strides in the years after World War II. South Korea followed suit. China has become the economic wonder of the twenty-first century. There are, as well, indications of accelerated economic development in India, the world’s largest democracy. It is natural that Israel’s economic relationship with these countries would begin to rival its relationships with the countries of Europe, a Europe which seems to be in permanent economic crisis and lagging behind the Asian tigers. …

Despite the centuries of anti-Semitism that marked most European nations and the guilt borne by them for their actions during the Holocaust, Europe, in recent years through the machinery of the European Union, has waged a constant campaign of criticism and condemnation of the policies pursued by Israeli governments, going so far as to impose economic sanction against Israel.

The second point was made in an op-ed in late February by Clemens Wergin in the New York Times, Why Israel no longer trusts Europe.

To Europe, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all problems facing the region — a view in no way altered by the Arab Human Development Reports published by the United Nations since 2002, which showed that Arab autocracies and cultural backwardness were the root of the region’s woes.

Even after the outbreak of the Arab revolutions revealed that indeed corruption — and lack of dignity, democracy and opportunity — were to blame for the rage of the Arab street, Europe insisted on the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wergin blames Israel, in part, for having “brought some of that on itself,” but he still acknowledges “Europe has also lost the measure of how one-sided its approach has become. European officials have a habit of aggrandizing obstacles for peace put up by Israel and minimizing those put up by the Palestinians.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made similar points in comments on the opening of the Chinese language website of The Times of Israel:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Times of Israel he foresees a further expansion of Israel’s relationship with China and that Israel has “a strong affinity for China….

Overall, trade between Israel and China reached $8.4 billion in 2013, compared with $6.7 billion in 2010, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Said Netanyahu to The Times of Israel: “We have a strong affinity for China. We see the impressive successes of China and believe that Israeli technology can complement China’s efforts to achieve even greater prosperity.”

If Europe has lost all sense of proportion in the Middle East, why shouldn’t Israel, as Prof. Jacobson has noted, build ties with China and India? Europe for now, is Israel’s largest trading partner. But Asia is now Israel’s second biggest trading partner, having passed the United States, and if the trends continue, it will likely challenge the European Union in a few years.

[Source: Israel-Asia Center / YouTube ]