Israel Emerges As A Player On The World Stage

The emergence of Israel as a small but significant player on the world stage is one of the remarkable developments at the end of the post-Cold War era. The slow economic growth of the United States and Europe has shown the weakness of the status quo powers. The American semi-withdrawal from the Middle East and the British withdrawal from the European Union have opened the door to new powers.

The chaos in the Middle East and the rise of revisionist authoritarian states such as Russia, China and Iran and democratic states like India raise the possibility of a new world order. This would be partly dominated by hardline conservative nationalism, charismatic leadership, slow economic growth, and hostility to the old globalist order.

With eight million people Israel can only play on the fringes of a new global order. But, it has a flourishing economy of $300 billion and nearly $40,000 GDP/capita. Its democratic, liberal politics and growing economy make it able to play both sides of the street.

Its military was rated by the Institute for the Study of War as "pilot to pilot and airframe to airframe" having "the best air force in the world" and the best army in the Middle East. Israel's extensive work on air defenses (Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow 2 and soon Arrow 3), carried out with the United States, makes it a serious military power. Its 80-100 atomic bombs put it in a rarified club of nine states in the world. Its intelligence capabilities (Shin Beth and Mossad) are formidable.

With over 250 foreign companies creating research facilities in Israel, its strong high-tech capability has been rated by the University of Lausanne as one of the top five world powers in this key area. While foreigners in 2015 invested $4 billion in Israel, Apple alone has invested over a billion dollars in creating a hardware development center with 800 Israeli employees. The Israelis, who created drip agriculture, are exporting $2 billion a year in water technology and recently hosted the leading international water conference

Three of the world's most powerful countries have invited Israeli companies to work with them in high-tech. The Americans have paired Technion with Cornell University in the new high-tech university in Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. The Russians have asked Israeli high-tech to help develop their new Silicon Valley in Skolkovo in the suburbs of Moscow. The Chinese have asked Technion to work with them to create a Shantou-Technion School of Technology in Guangdong Province.

Israel has, despite its poor past relationship, developed excellent relations with Russia. There are over one million Russian immigrants in Israel and all seven of Israel's early long serving Prime Ministers before 2005 were either from Russia or spoke Russian. Israel's kibbutzim, moshavim and Histadrut owe their creation to Russian socialist ideas. Bibi Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times in the last year; Putin has visited Israel twice. While the two countries differ over Moscow's support for Iran and selling them the S-300 anti-missile defense system, Israel has sold $1 billion of drones to Russia over the years. It has $3 billion in trade and shares a desire for peace in the region.

The Israelis, who also did not have diplomatic relations with China until 1992, have seen their relationship expand strongly. Today their trade is expanding to $10 billion a year. Chinese investors have been looking to invest billions of dollars in Israel. Israel is looking to export their water technology to a country with 400 million people living in arid regions.

Israel is also developing a strong relationship with India. It has $5 billion in trade with India which could multiply to $15 billion if the two sides decide to create a free trade zone. Israel is the second greatest exporter of arms to India, preceded only by Russia. India's Foreign Ministry visited Israel in January and proclaimed that there was a "very high importance" to their new relationship. Prime Minister Narenda Modi is also scheduled to visit Israel.

For the tiny and poor 1948 Israel to be able less than 70 years later to play a role among the great powers of the world seems amazing. And, yet, in the twenty-first century, everything is possible.