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James Marlow explains that more and more countries are turning to Israel for trade, technology and cyber security opportunities. Marlow highlights the great number of Indian and Chinese companies that are looking to Israel and that given Britain’s upcoming exit from the EU, additional ties with the country are expected to be formed.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May

Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

The Palestinian cause is “no longer a top priority” in the Arab world declared a Saudi journalist last month. In an article published by the Saudi daily Al Jazirah newspaper, Muhammad al-Sheikh wrote that the reliance of radical Palestinian groups on armed resistance “constitutes a kind of political suicide that only political ignoramuses condone.”

He is absolutely right and many Saudi and other Arab journalists have been writing on similar themes ever since Iran became a dominant power in the Middle East. A rapidly changing geopolitical Middle East means moderate Arab states are reaching out to Israel behind closed doors and may even be grateful the tiny Jewish state is a strong democratic force in the region. Furthermore, many African and Asian nations openly admit they need Israel for their expertise in high-tech, medical research, security, desalinization of water, farming, agriculture and so much more. Israel is no longer a country just known for its olives and oranges but its outstretched arm reaches far and wide and influences many.

Across the globe, countries are strengthening their co-operation in trade, technology and cyber security with Israel, which is making nations more prosperous and its people safer.   Last week’s face to face meeting at Downing Street between Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu was essential, especially after the British people voted last June to leave the European Union. Britain needs to establish new business opportunities and Israel is happy to oblige.

Brussels is still so angry with the British result mostly because it will lose at least £350 ($500) million of essential revenue per week that it is unlikely to come to any deal with Britain. The EU would rather stifle European trade with the UK than give them the satisfaction of an agreement where both sides benefit. May said in January that, “No deal is better than a bad deal,” meaning that she might turn to the countries already lined up – and Israel is one of many to benefit.

A new enhanced strategic alliance with increased trade and co-operation under a Theresa May government is perfect for Netanyahu and Israel. May and Netanyahu see eye to eye on so many issues including an aggressive Iran has to be monitored closely, a Syrian butcher still in power but eventually has to be removed and radical Islam that must be given serious attention.

But on trade, Israel has some exciting upcoming opportunities. Firstly, the nation is scheduled to sign a free trade deal with China later this year, which could make Britain extremely jealous as only they can sign such an agreement once the UK officially leaves the European Union, which will not be before 2019.

China has also admired Israel’s high-tech and medical research accomplishments over the years and is eagerly looking forward to tariff-free business with the tiny Middle East state.  

Although trade between Israel and China stands at $11 billion, only $3 billion is attributed to exports, which is what prompted Netanyahu to rightly say, exports are far too low. “We must break this trend,” and added, “This is a massive market and a strategic step for the Israeli economy.”

In fact, there are 45 Chinese companies registered to attend what will be the largest tech investment conference ever seen in the Middle East later this week and it all takes place in Jerusalem hosted by the venture capital company OurCrowd.

In addition, 30 different companies from India will also be making the trip to Israel to invest and forge strategic partnerships at the summit.

These two countries are among the most powerful and influential nations, not just in Asia but in the world, and now officially view the tiny Jewish state as a desire after experts in a whole range of fields and want to get in on the action.       

Furthermore, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to make a historic visit to the Jewish state later in the year, marking 25 years of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.

It will be the first time in history an Indian prime minister has visited Israel and is proof, if ever any was needed, of an upgrade in relations at all levels after the high profile visit of the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in 2015. 

Approximately 35,000-40,000 Israelis visit India every year and around the same number of Indian tourists travel to Israel. But both countries wish to significantly upgrade those numbers traveling per annum.

However, Indian tourists have expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of available Indian food in Israel, despite the fact that demand for a kosher Chicken Tikka Masala is on the rise.

According to the Indian Ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, Israel does not give visas to Indian cooks and sous-chefs, but only to expert Indian chefs, whose wages can only be paid by the large hotels. He told Ynet News, “If Indian cooks and sous-chefs are allowed to come, it will allow for a boom in Indian restaurants, which will benefit everyone. There is a big demand for this.”

Whether we see a sudden surge of Indian kosher restaurants across Jerusalem and Israel remains to be seen. But what is clear is African, Asian and South American countries are defying what once was a boycott of Israel and feel they can benefit so much from the tiny Jewish state.