Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

‘Return of the Red Card: Israel-China-U.S. Triangle

Israel’s strategic decision to resume military deals with Beijing appears to have boomeranged. Israeli media admits that U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, the third most senior official in the Pentagon, demanded the resignation of Amos Yaron, the top bureaucrat in Israel’s Defense Ministry, over the Harpy controversy. However, having learned from the Phalcon controversy, all parties decided to resolve the dilemma quietly.

Forgetting Lessons, Repeating History

The continuing nature of the Sino-Israeli-U.S. controversy underscores a number of important but often forgotten lessons. Astonishingly, Israel is yet to recognize and reconcile with the negative consequences of the end of the Cold War. It continues to dwell on the benefits of the new world order whereby countries such as Syria were forced to seek a negotiated political settlement with the Jewish state.

It is rarely recognized in Israel that the disappearance of the “evil empire” also meant Israel losing some of its relative importance to the U.S. This results in Israel not appreciating the new American concerns vis-à-vis China and its potential threats to American interests in the Pacific and elsewhere.

Moreover, by focusing on the non-American nature of its military exports to China, Israel is unable to comprehend the real issues involved. The problem is not whether they contain technology supported or funded by the U.S; indeed, both the Phalcon and Harpy programs do not appear to contain any American component or technology. Nevertheless, Israel’s dependence upon the United States has limited its foreign policy leverage when dealing with countries about which Washington has strategic concerns. This exposes Israel’s vulnerability.

The controversies surrounding Sino-Israeli military ties and Israel eventually yielding to American demands also undermines Israel’s ability as a reliable arms supplier. At one level, Israel’s ability to promote its foreign policy vis-à-vis the rest of the world largely depends upon it being a reliable arms supplier. At the same time, arms supplies to China bring Israel into a conflict situation vis-à-vis the U.S.


Israel is not the only country that faces growing American demands on strategic issues. Europe is facing the American music over the possible renewal of military sales to China, India over its bourgeoning energy ties with Iran, and China over its relations with North Korea.

Israel, unfortunately, is more vulnerable than most. Therefore, so long as it depends upon Washington for political support, economic largess and strategic backing, Israel’s ability to pursue an independent arms export policy toward China will continue to be limited and circumspect.

Reproduced with the kind permission of P.I.N.R. The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader.

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