The strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel has reached a strange impasse. In important ways, thanks in particular to initiatives by the Trump administration, the two countries have never been closer. In other ways, however, they have never seemed farther apart. This is notably the case with regard to relations with China, America’s most important geopolitical competitor.
A year ago in Mosaic, I detailed Israel’s increasing ties to China and the chill those ties might bring to the longstanding U.S.-Israel strategic partnership. That essay spelled out the dramatic expansion in Israel-China trade, with Israeli companies investing heavily in the Chinese market and China buying up large sections of Israel’s technology sector, especially in areas critical to future advanced-weapons systems. It also noted how U.S. officials, and even some Israeli security experts, were disturbed by the extent and potential direction of this relationship and its possibly deleterious effect on Israel’s security cooperation with the United States. In the words of one American observer whom I quoted:
The Pentagon is increasingly worried that artificial-intelligence capabilities acquired by Chinese firms through civilian investments or licensing deals could find their way into a new generation of Chinese weapons that would threaten American troops and American allies.
Since my article’s publication, the Israeli government has taken steps to ease U.S. concerns. But doubts remain. They spring not only from Israel’s continued relations with Beijing but also from a long history of friction over the U.S.-Israel defense trade relationship itself—as well as from an even deeper perception that, in the case of any conflict between its own interests and those of its American protector, Israel is only too likely to favor the former.
Read the full essay in Mosaic here