Arms diplomacy was Israel’s legacy to gain diplomatic victories. But Pegasus had a bad image

TThe Indian government does not deny or admit to having used Pegasus, spyware for surveillance. This opacity is cheeky! It is now a fact that the software track was found in the phones of Indian citizens and that it came from a private Israeli company – the NSO Group – with the consent of the Israeli Ministry of Defense during the tenure of the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States blacklisted the company for violating democratic ethics and individual rights. The government of Israel is trying not to take offense at its very powerful ally for this unfavorable decision. The two countries have a special relationship, and as a result, the Pegasus episode is a pretty unpleasant moment between them.

The State of Israel experienced a precarious diplomatic life after its establishment in 1948, as many Asian countries as well as the Arab world were reluctant to engage with it or have full diplomatic relations. The ideologically divided world of the Cold War era also chose to keep its distance from Israel; like India and China. India did not recognize Israel until 1950 and took another 42 years to establish full diplomatic relations with it. Israel has endured a long diplomatic isolation from the non-Western world.

Read also : NSO Group of Pegasus Celebrated on US Commerce Blacklist for “Malicious Cyber ​​Activity”

“Weapon” partners

Security, survival, and economic development were some of Israel’s key goals – a country that had almost no natural resources like oil and gas or even enough clean water. The rejection of diplomatic normalization in Asia and Africa was a difficult challenge, but Israel lived it. One of the ways around this problem has been to become technologically advanced and economically self-sufficient. He also believed that sophisticated weapons and means of warfare could make him valuable to others in the long run. Therefore, arms diplomacy has become an effective approach for Israel to establish political relations.

Israel has been generous in granting arms to those who did not have official diplomatic relations with it. Its first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, was more than happy to send supplies “with all the sympathy and understanding of the government and the people of Israel” to India when Jawaharlal Nehru requested his assistance with ammunition and weapons. weapons during the war with China in 1962.

Receiving weapons from Israel was controversial then, much less now, so there were requests to send the ship without its flag on top. But when Ben-Gurion said, “No flag, no weapons,” India received the much-needed supply with the official flag of Israel.

Read also : India-Israel-US-UAE group “not against China”, cannot rule out trade deal, Israeli envoy says

Pegasus – myth and reality

Pegasus is a kind of weapon (like the Negev light machine guns that Israel sent to India in 2020) and India could benefit from the software as there are many external threats to its national security. However, an international investigation around Pegasus has revealed that there are more dangerous implications in store. The Indian government may have used it against political opponents, members of civil society and journalists. It has earned a negative image of Israel in the world.

Pegasus is a product of Israel’s ecosystem of innovation, cybersecurity – an essential part of national security – and the military support system. Like most arms companies, the NSO Group is a private company that sells its products to government agencies around the world, and it does so with the knowledge and prior authorization of the Israeli Defense Ministry. While the Pegasus stories have dominated international news and received harsh criticism from human rights organizations around the world, they have elicited no public criticism in Israel. The state is a state focused on military security and most Israelis, like most citizens for that matter, believe that anything the state does for national security is legitimate.

Read also : Indian targets appeared on Pegasus list after Modi’s visit to Israel in 2017: Haaretz technical editor

The selling point is “creativity”, not democratic values

Arms diplomacy is still a political and diplomatic trump card – besides amassing huge trade gains as a bonus – to the wider establishment of the State of Israel. According to the Defense Ministry, 70 to 80% of Israeli military production is destined for export. Government-to-government sales have increased from $ 580 million to $ 911 million in 2020. The arms trade is common and Israel is no exception to have earned money and prestige with its defense technologies. . However, some of its arms supplies violated the values ​​of democracy and human rights, as in the case of Myanmar and Azerbaijan, where undemocratic leaders bought Israeli weapons to suppress claims. democratic. Another is Saudi Arabia, which has used the same tactics to attack dissidents.

States care about their image and promote their unique role in international politics. The Israeli Foreign Ministry uses the slogan “Spirit of Creativity” to present the idea of ​​Israel. Selling weapons that violate democratic values ​​does not add to Israel’s soft power. Rather, it paints a picture of a militarist, macho and realpolitik state. The image problem with Pegasus becomes inevitable, as it violates the fundamentals of liberty and individual liberty. Arms diplomacy could have helped Israel forge military and strategic ties with a number of Arab and Asian states to normalize diplomatic relations, and its partnerships with India and China bear witness to this. But Pegasus questions the idea that only weapons can build relationships.

In post-Netanyahu Israel, the new Foreign Minister and Prime Minister designate Yair Lapid recently wrote about his vision for Israel. According to him, “For about a decade, Israeli foreign policy has become bogged down in the gloomy idea that the international community is a Darwinist environment. He is also concerned that even Israel’s most treasured diplomatic relationship with the United States – more with the Democratic Party – is under strain. For him, “American and European students [he could say the same about Indian students] are not demonstrating against us because of “interests” but because of moral failures and public diplomacy. He also believes that Israel’s future would be better if it moved away from “pessimism” in diplomacy.

He advises Israelis to think about the idea of ​​Israel and calls, “We must create a diplomatic umbrella to protect us on rainy days. Accept responsibility, be open to ideas, make decisions based on facts (even when they are unpleasant), clearly understand how others see us, be ready to accept criticism, avoid self-pity and respect the rights of the man “.

It would be interesting to see him as Prime Minister and know if he can pave the way for a better Israel.

Dr Khinvraj Jangid teaches at the Center for Israel Studies, Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat. You can email him at [email protected] Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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