Israel is unique and controversial on many levels as is widely known and frequently discussed. But among the most peculiar features of Israel is that unlike most US allies, it is de-facto allowed to pick and choose which western characteristics to adopt and which one’s to ignore and discard. On the one hand Israel is a western style parliamentary democracy, on the other hand this democracy is only accessible to some of the inhabitants of the land of Palestine and beyond this, a new Nation Sate Law which has codified a long standing reality states that the country’s Jewish citizens have a vested status under the law vis-a-vis Arabs with Israeli passports and Druze people with Israeli passports. Unsurprisingly, this law has been described as an Apartheid law. On the one hand, Israel not only joins but frequently leads the western powers in arguing for wars against other states in the Middle East because a so-called tyrant is allegedly “killing his own people”. Yet when Israel is criticised for killing Palestinians on their own occupied territories, Israel condemns any suggestion that even diplomatic action should be taken against Tel Aviv for its actions against Palestine.
While Israel has been subject to more condemnations at the United Nations over human rights issues than any other nation, another duality has been exposed in Israeli society as some Israeli leftists are protesting a visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte based on the fake news that he practises “extra judicial killings”, when in reality Israel is well known to engage in the aforementioned practice and justifies such things by invoking self-defence against Palestinians typically armed with nothing but sticks and stones.
I have previously written that in meeting with Israel’s head of state and government, Duterte is not doing anything different than that which is frequently done by the leaders of the Asian superpowers China and Russia. For that matter I also discussed the reality that ASEAN’s most prosperous nation Singapore has excellent relations with Israel in spite of having a sizeable Muslim population. Therefore, if one is to exclusively single out The Philippines due to Duterte’s visit to Israel, one is in fact guilty of bigotry against The Philippine nation as such voices are scarcely audible when the leaders of Russia, China and Singapore engage in positive relations with Tel Aviv.
But beyond this, Duterte’s visit to Israel is highly strategic in respect of the long and controversial relationship between the United States and The Philippines. Rodrigo Duterte has frequently criticised the United States, Canada and the European Union for being incredibly difficult to conduct arms deals with. By contrast, Duterte has praised the ease with which such deals can be conducted with the respectful and business minded leaders of China and Russia.
In Israel, Duterte has met and will continue to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli Prime Minister who in spite of his excellent relations with the US also has incredibly strong relations with Russia and China. Furthermore, unlike Canada, Australia and the European Union, Netanyahu’s Israel has not sanctioned Russia but seeks to expand trade with Russia. Furthermore, while the US ignores the Soviet role in destroying European fascism, Netanyahu has made the 9th of May (Victory Day) an official holiday. Furthermore, while the US is enforcing tariffs on China, Israel wants to open its markets to ever more free trade with China. This is not to say that because of this, Netanyahu’s criminal record against Palestine should be forgiven. Instead, these are clear and open facts which clearly separate Israel from almost all of its closest partners in the wider western world.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has exploited these differences between Israel and the rest of its western partners an in so doing has attained a substantial geo-strategic advantage for his own nation. Most recently, Russia effectively forced the US into accepting its role as a guarantor of the Iranian/Hezbollah withdrawal from south-eastern Syria. This was the first time that Russia and the US had agreed on virtually anything in the region since the 1956 Soviet-America efforts to end the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt. Even before that, Israel’s exceptionally good relations with modern Russia have proved that a country often referred to as America’s top ally has taken a very different view from the US and its Anglophone allies when it comes to Russia.
President Duterte is now well placed to take advantage of a similar situation. To put it simply, if the US, Canada, Australia and Europe refuse to sell The Philippines high quality weapons at a fair price and with a rapid delivery, then “western” Israel will do so happily. In this sense, Israel, a nation increasingly isolated in many corners of the world through the BDS movement, can now say that a major south east Asian state has renewed a long standing friendship dating back to the 1940s. For The Philippines, it is likely that Duterte will get from Israel the modern weapons his country desperately needs to fight terrorism while also shamming the US into acting differently towards The Philippines than its number one ally Israel.
In this sense, Duterte may even motivate his self-described “friend” Donald Trump to act in a more realistic manner towards The Philippines where at the moment, in spite of Trump’s declared admiration for Duterte, the US policies towards The Philippines are being shaped by the infamously anti-Duterte Congress and intelligence agencies.
In this sense, Duterte has done something that previously was only accomplished by the global military superpowers of Asia and the economic heavyweight of south East Asia, Singapore. Duterte has used a partnership with Israel to draw a clear line across relations with the US that will either force the US to revise its own policy or else lose its Philippine partner not to an enemy of the United States but to America’s best friend – Israel.