Why the US wants to Limit Sino-Israeli Economic Relations

The US government is very concerned about Israel-China economic relations to the point of telling Israel not to do business with Chinese companies that are active in the US. While the US has legitimate concerns in preventing transfer of sensitive dual usage technologies to China, the US has an additional agenda and that is to prevent Israel from realigning with China. Israel has a strategic alternative to America but the US does not have a strategic alternative to Israel. US policies towards Israel indicate that the US is a superpower in decline.

The common perception is that Israel is concerned that America will abandon Israel when and if an unfriendly American president is elected in the future. However, the reality is entirely different as the US nowadays is more reliant on Israel than Israel is reliant on the US and Israel is growing stronger and America is weakening in relation to China. America is concerned that at some point in the future when China has become a superpower and overtaken the United States will Israel choose to abandon the alliance with America in favor of realignment with China. Since Israel is America’s most important ally anywhere and makes huge contributions to America’s security in cyber, intelligence and advanced technologies, is America trying to curb economic relations between Israel and China.

This is highly destructive since China is an important economic partner of Israel and America reversely certainly would not curb its economic relations with China in order to placate Israel. America’s suspicions about Sino-Israeli relations is however mirrored by Israeli suspicions about American intentions vis-a-vis Iran.

The solution rather is parallel strategic dialogue on both strategic tracks. Israel and America need to deepen their relations with more transparency on both Iran and China. The two nations fundamentally share common strategic interests regarding both Iran and China. Neither nation wants to see China become a superpower and even worse overtake America as the sole superpower. Neither nation wants to see Iran become a nuclear weapons power and a superpower. Israel needs to become more transparent with the US with regard to China policy and the US needs to become more transparent with Israel with regard to Iran policy. China threatens America’s superpower status and Iran threatens Israel’s great power status. However, there is a fundamental asymmetry in that China is a strategic rival of the United States while Iran is an existential enemy of Israel. 

America may suspect that Israel transfers sensitive technologies to China in order to deepen its relationship with Beijing so as to build a future alternative to the Israeli-American special relationship. The fact is that America is over time becoming increasingly reliant on Israel and with that rises American suspicions that Israel might abandon Washington for Beijing in the future. This is so as China’s technologies are growing increasingly sophisticated and at some point in the future might Chinese defense technologies become more advanced than American defense technologies which ostensibly would make it attractive for Israel to abandon America for China.

America has officially abandoned the Malley doctrine of “endless negotiations” (or at least claims so) and that is a positive step regarding Iran. However, it is entirely unclear whether America will join an Israeli-led international coalition to impose a no-fly zone over Iran, provide air support to armed rebellions throughout the country so as to unseat the Iranian regime and permanently destroy the Iranian nuclear nuclear weapons program. The US of course still awaits the demise of the JCPOA and there is still some time left until the JCPOA is dead and buried and this is understandable to some degree considering that this is official US policy however misguided a policy it is. 

The inevitable demise of the JCPOA will provide opportunity for dual-track diplomacy between the US and Israel on Iran and China with the goal of allaying mutual suspicions and deepening mutual relations. Israel needs to become more transparent about its technological relations with China, and America needs to join the emerging international coalition to impose a no-fly zone over Iran. This way can mutual suspicions between the two great allies be laid to rest.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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