Israel’s MOD visits Japan: A potential milestone? | Opinion

Guest writer Elhanan Harel, an investment consultant and expert on the Japanese and Israeli markets, analyzes the growing cooperation between both countries as they face new threats and shifting geopolitics

In January 2015, then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visited Israel and met with counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

He may love Sushi, but that's not the reason Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, is heading to Japan today (Sunday) on the first official defense mission ever.

Gantz, who just wrapped up meetings in the US with top American Security officials in last-minute efforts to raise Israel’s case and concerns ahead of resurrecting the nuclear deal with Iran, flew straight from Washington, DC to Tokyo on Saturday evening, to meet his Japanese counterpart.

Japan and Israel’s defense relations have always been minor, albeit not nonexistent. Japan's pacifist doctrine was opposite to Israel's never-ending commitment to secure its presence and survival.

This has slowly changed, over the last decade.

Geopolitical developments and new threats in the Pacific rim, as well as dramatic developments in the Middle East, have contributed to stepping up the bilateral dialogue on security matters.

Consequential to their mutual interest and needs, in September 2019 Israel and Japan signed a defense Memorandum of Understanding to allow discreet flow of information and to strengthen defense relations between the two.

Another important agreement for cooperation was on the cyber security front.

Over the past year, new strategic alignments have been created to answer new security needs and confront escalating territorial threats.

Japan has intensified its strategic cooperation with the USA, Australia, the UK and India, in order to safeguard its interest in East Pacific and prevent China’s escalating declarations.

Israel, at the other end of Asia, has deepened its understandings and collaboration with India and the UAE to answer expanding Iranian terrorist threats and to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state.

As it seems, Minister Gantz has many topic to discuss and much to offer:

  1. Intensify the intelligence exchange to fight against the North Korean-Iranian "Axis of Evil".
  2. Discuss possible cooperation in anti-missile defense, as North Korea’s intimidations becomes riskier. Israel's multi-layer defense systems and technology has proven its outstanding efficiency in numerous adverse and grievous cases.
  3. As China is speeding up its economic cooperation with Iran, avoiding international economic sanctions, Israel might wish to prevent the transfer of technologies that may contribute to Iran's military establishment.
  4. As Israel and Japan's defense industries both have their own advantages and expertise, intensifying cooperation is mutually beneficial on the short and long run.
  5. Cybersecurity warfare is constantly on the rise and has already become a major strategic threat to national infrastructures and utilities, as well as to industry, finance and commerce. Japan is in constantly being threatened and attacked on this front by North Korea, China and Russia. As Israel is a global leader in cyber warfare, deepening bilateral collaboration may provide immediate assistance on this front.
  6. Immediate international conflicts – such as in the case of Taiwan and the Persian Gulf – need diplomatic, intelligence, and strategic platforms. Israel and Japan should establish all of these on the ministerial level.

Thus, Minister Gantz’s visit to Japan may be a very important milestone in the development of strategic relations between the two countries.

As the two countries celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations, it's time to add a new important dimension to their ever-growing levels of cooperation

*Written by Elhanan Harel, President and Founder of the Harel-Hertz Investment House, a consulting and investment boutique firm which specializes in promoting business between Israrel, Japan and the world



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