Israel and Japan have made a significant recent effort, which is remarkable, given their historical connection. They had a lot of fence mending to do, considering Japan’s role in World War II and how Israel came to be created. However, Japan was the first Asian country to recognize the State of Israel. It is in the best interest of both countries to promote world peace.
In the first visit in 70 years, the two countries have developed an agreement based on research and development (R&D), an area in which both countries excel. It seems like a natural connection. Japan recognizes Israel’s expertise in energy and water resources, as well as information technology. Israel appreciates Japan’s skill in industry and science.
In fact, Japan selected Israel as its first partner ever in an R&D cooperation agreement. Following a business delegation in Israel this week led by Japan’s Minister of the Economy, Trade and Industry, Tohimitsu Motegi, the response from Israel was positive.
Israeli Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett said that the agreement represented a dramatic change in Japanese policy and a breakthrough achievement in terms of economic relations with Israel. The economic benefit will be to open markets in Japan to develop business relationships with Israeli companies.
Seventy years ago, in the Second World War (1939-1945), Imperial Japan was one the principal partners in the Axis alliance, with Germany and Italy. In a mutually agreed upon power-sharing, the Third Reich of Hitler’s Germany attempted to annex all of the western side of the world, while Japan took on the eastern side.
Israel was established three years after the end of WWII, in 1948, as a homeland for the Jews, who needed a place for safety after the Holocaust. The Jews of Palestine welcomed the displaced Jewish refugees of Europe. The War ended when the U.S., as Allies against the Axis of Power, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Old hurts take a long time to heal, and for this historic reason, the new alliance between Israel and Japan is particularly meaningful.
The focus of the historic research alliance made between Israel and Japan parallels the areas of responsibility of the Japanese Minister of the Economy, Mr. Motegi. The agreement includes three themes. They are venture capital, advanced technology and industrial research and development, and the development and promotion of national defense and cyber security. The goal is for mutual support on joint R&D projects that will be implemented by both Japanese and Israeli companies and research institutes.
The official visit this week was a follow-up to one by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his trip to Japan in May. At that time, support was declared for the establishment of the agreement.
Reasons cited were the expected deepened exchanges and promotion of shared knowledge between the two countries. In addition, the Israeli Prime Minister agreed that missions to Japan in order to cooperate in the field of renewable energy would be welcome.
On Sunday, Motegi signed an agreement with the Israeli Minister of the Economy, Mr. Bennett, who welcomed the visitors to Israel. Bennett spoke about the continuation of efforts to strengthen economic ties with countries of East Asia.
The dramatic change and the breakthrough achievement regarding Japanese policy on economic relations with Israel were acknowledged, as well. Mr. Bennett also mentioned the importance of the collaboration in terms of Israeli companies breaking into new markets, and the opportunity for promoting innovation and joint initiatives.
In a television news broadcast in Japan in May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated Japan’s commitment to peace in the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged the similar challenges of both countries from “rogue states arming themselves with nuclear weapons.” Both said that they face clear and present danger against North Korea (in the case of Japan) and Iran (in the case of Israel).
Netanyahu talked about “together creating the future.” Whether this will have a positive effect on the Israeli shekel or the weakened Japanese yen is yet to be seen. However, the historic alliance made between Israel and Japan, long held in suspension, holds great promise economically and in terms of diplomatic relations.
Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown