Last year's Jerusalem meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister of China served as a platform to announce that it is on its way to replacing the European Union as Israel's largest trading partner. Not to be outdone, this week Japan has come to Jerusalem and Israel has rolled out the red carpet.
Two days ago, Sunday, the newly reelected Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, arrived in Tel Aviv. He was not alone. Accompanied by an entourage of more than 100 people, including business executives and government officials, Prime Minister Abe made clear his serious intent to strengthen economic ties with the Jewish state.
When they met, an energetic Abe greeted an ebullient Netanyahu. "I am delighted to welcome you," Netanyahu said, noting that the visit is reciprocal to his journey to Japan last year. This "gives us a historic opportunity to bring together the great capabilities of the people of Japan and the people of Israel," he added.
Abe responded by noting that economic ties with Israel is the one area that "has the greatest potential for advancement of bilateral relations" with Japan.
Abe and his one hundred person retinue have since received a firsthand, first class tour of Israeli businesses. At an "Innovation Exhibition" in Jerusalem, the Japanese delegation was introduced to a few of Israel's high-tech business innovations in health and medicine. They included "wow" developments in brain and heart diagnoses along with recovery mechanisms that allow some paraplegics to walk.
At a subsequent Economic Forum meeting between Israeli and Japanese business leaders, Netanyahu tipped his strategic hat, noting that Israel "must diversify its markets to include Japan and the other great economies of Asia."
Notably, the Western "Boycott Divestment and Sanctions" campaign, BDS, is virtually absent in Asia where, for lack of anti-Israel focus and cultural reasons, it is unlikely to take root.
"Our bilateral trade can grow rapidly. So can investments, joint ventures and exchanges of technology," Netanyahu affirmed. "We have barely scratched the surface for the potential in our relationship."
Abe concurred and did so in his native tongue. "There is every reason for Japan to cooperate with this great nation," he said, speaking Japanese. "I surely feel that our relationship is deepening in all sorts of areas."
That "deepening" includes an awareness of terrorism and the Holocaust. Fresh from his first visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum and arguably the soul of Israel, Abe affirmed his own commitment "that such tragedies should never ever be repeated."
For the most part, Japan has not experienced acts of Islamist terrorism familiar to Israel. Today however, that has changed.
While this story was being written, the Islamic State published a video threatening to behead two Japanese hostages unless it is paid a $200 million ransom.
As the West experiences rising levels of Islamist terror and, looking East, blames Israel; so now the East, Japan, begins to taste the same, while looking West, it forges an economic relationship with the Jewish state.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 20, 2015)
Photo Credit: Gershom/GPO/Ashernet