Japanese-Israeli relations have gained an upward curve over the past three decades, and this has strengthened their strategic partnership with the United States. Tokyo has had remarkable positions that have emerged since the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza strip.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced two packages of sanctions, the first of which included 9 people and an exchange company in the Gaza Strip, describing them as financiers and activists in the Islamic Resistance Movement (agitation).
Then, in December 2023, the Ministry announced the imposition of sanctions on 3 Hamas members under the pretext of their involvement in the last October 7 attack on the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip.
During her recent visit to the region, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa announced her understanding of the Israeli attack on Jabalia camp, despite the killing of large numbers of civilians.
Japan stressed the call for holding only a humanitarian truce in Gaza without calling for a permanent ceasefire in line with the American position, during its participation in a collective statement issued by the Group of Seven, whose last meeting was hosted by Tokyo.
On the other hand, the Japanese Navy Commander announced that his country would not participate in the initiative.Guardian of prosperity“which the United States launched to secure navigation in the Red Sea against Houthi attacks, limiting itself to participating in the anti-piracy force in the Gulf of Aden.
If we go back decades, after World War II, Japan focused on deepening its alliance with Washington to secure itself from its nuclear neighbors in China and the Soviet Union, and adopted the provision of foreign aid to countries that it considered important in ensuring stable energy supplies.
This led to Tokyo strengthening its relations with the Arab countries that, in the historical context, were at enmity with Israel, which had nothing to offer economically or politically to Japan. Its local market was small and its natural resources were limited, and it did not have financial resources that would enable it to buy expensive Japanese exports such as ships. Cars and electronic devices, which makes the relationship with them entail potential risks without expected gains.
Japan pursued a policy of supporting regional stability in light of its constitution’s emphasis on prohibiting the use of military capabilities in settling international disputes, which made it in contrast to Israel, which was involved in many wars, making their security interests directly in conflict.
On the other hand, Tel Aviv focused on strengthening its relations with Western Europe and the United States without paying attention to building strong relations with Asian countries that were generally supportive of Palestinian demands.
In light of this picture, Israel and Japan had little to offer each other, which was reflected in Tokyo officially opening its embassy in Tel Aviv relatively late in 1963, and its regular vote in the United Nations General Assembly against Israel regarding the Palestinian issue.
The peace process
With the end of the Cold War and the participation of Arab countries in… Madrid Conference in 1991 The door to Arab-Israeli normalization was gradually opened and Israel's relations with many of the Gulf oil-producing countries improved. The obstacle of Tokyo's fear of Arab discomfort regarding the development of Japanese-Israeli relations was broken.
Visits by Japanese officials to Israel continued, and Japanese Foreign Minister Ono Sosuke became the first Japanese minister to visit Israel in 1988, a visit of which he spent a third in a Palestinian refugee camp.
The official inauguration of relations between Tel Aviv and Beijing in 1992 contributed to directing Tokyo's attention to the importance of keeping pace with China's openness on the world stage. For Japanese elites, China's more active international presence is seen as a direct challenge to Japanese national interest, and therefore Japanese foreign policy-making decisions and its relations are affected. Diplomacy in Beijing's policies.
On the other hand, Israeli-American differences contributed to the emergence of the issue Iranian nuclearEspecially during the era of US President Barack Obama (2009-2017), Tel Aviv adopted a more open policy toward the East to diversify its relations.
Japan always emphasizes its adoption of the two-state solution, and shows the importance of the role it plays in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the financial support it provides to the Palestinian Authority, which is estimated at tens of millions annually.
On the economic level, after the shock of the high oil price, Tokyo moved from heavy industries in sectors such as shipbuilding, cars, and steel to sectors focused on services and information technology, such as finance, insurance, communications, and computer chips, and began to look to countries that intersect with its new economic interests.
At the same time, Israel achieved technological breakthroughs based on the knowledge economy, becoming the second country in the world in the field of cybersecurity after the United States. It also became a leader in the field of seawater desalination and wastewater recycling, launched computerized drip irrigation systems that save water, and discovered natural gas. In the Eastern Mediterranean in 2009, which turned it into a gas exporting country.
In general, between the late 1980s and 2010, the economic synergy increased in which both countries found benefit in deepening trade and investment relations between them compared to previous periods. Japan also began to play a more active role in international politics, especially in regions of strategic importance such as the Middle East, and supported the Arab peace process. Israel, became involved in financing the Palestinian Authority that emerged from the Oslo Accords, and Japanese Prime Minister Maruyama became the first incumbent to visit Israel in 1995.
By the beginning of the 21st century, Japanese and Israeli security and economic interests agreed, and both parties looked forward to establishing new alliances and diversifying commercial networks, which was reflected in a leap in the relationship between them since 2012, when they signed a number of security and trade agreements.
We launched high-level dialogues on national security and cybersecurity in light of Japanese fears about North Korea’s missile tests, and Israeli concern about the Iranian missile program.
In 2018, they held the first bilateral political-military dialogue to discuss regional situations, after they signed in 2016 a joint investment treaty, followed by the announcement in 2017 of the “Japan-Israel Innovation Partnership,” which works to expand the scope of cooperation in the field of cybersecurity to include training courses and workshops. Joint efforts and deepening ties between the public and private sectors in the two countries.
The emergence of security, geopolitical and economic factors, in addition to the traditional oil factor and the Washington factor that previously framed the boundaries of the relationship between the two countries, contributed to recalibrating Japanese policy towards the Palestinian issue and taking positions more inclined towards Tel Aviv compared to the old positions.
The relationship between them has not yet turned into an alliance, but it is moving on the path of strengthening the partnership in light of the intersection of their interests and the fragmentation of the Arab position due to the impact of the unilateral normalization agreements with Israel.