At a time of diplomatic turbulence, Israel's diplomatic ties with
the world's newest nation, South Sudan, can benefit its economy and
security. While struggling South Sudan will appreciate Israel's aid,
it's actually Israel that stands to gain.
The world's newest member in the community of nations got plenty
of press coverage when it formally declared independence in July.
But one aspect of South Sudan's emergence went largely unnoticed:
the establishment of official diplomatic relations with Israel. Far
from a routine gesture, the mutual declaration of recognition
between the two states could prove to be a significant boost to
Israel's strategic position, not to mention the positives that may
come as South Sudan attempts to get its new state on a strong
The leaders of South Sudan, a country with a feeble national
infrastructure and a near-nonexistent formal economy after two
decades of conflict with the north, will much appreciate the
economic aid and leverage that comes with a new diplomatic
relationship. But it is actually Israel that has the most to gain.
Israel's diplomatic outreach extends a measure of goodwill to the
people of South Sudan - who need all the help they can get as their
country begins the long process of setting up embassies, forming an
independent foreign policy, and building up their agricultural
potential. But the new partnership with the South Sudanese
Government also provides Israel with an opportunity to create a
foothold in a region that is known to export some its instability
into the Middle East.
At the same time that the Israeli people continue to raise
questions over the rising costs of housing, food, and fuel, the
diplomatic relationship with South Sudan has the potential to
alleviate some of those problems - that is, if the Israeli
government is serious about working with a country projected by some
to be Africa's biggest food producer. And while South Sudan
certainly has years to go before its economy breaks free from the
shackles of oil dependency, the technical expertise that Israel
brings into the new relationship at least has a potential to make
that transition a little easier.
Economics are not the only benefit for Israel. This new
relationship could prove a huge boost to Israel's global standing -
and its strategy of Iranian deterrence as well. Over the past
several years, Iran - Israel's archenemy in the region - has been
accelerating its own diplomatic push on the African continent in an
attempt to compensate for its loss of markets in the west.
A concerted campaign by Israel to sponsor development projects in
South Sudan, involve itself in promoting the country's untapped
natural resources, and build people-to-people contacts that are
genuine and long-lasting would take a significant potential market
and relationship from Iran as it tries to survive economic sanctions
on its nuclear program.
In addition to using its hard power to slow down Tehran's pursuit
of an indigenous nuclear program, the Israelis will find it
worthwhile to exploit soft power as well. Putting a good face on the
African continent is one aspect of that soft power approach. …