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Otherness and resilience in bilateral relations: the cases of Israel‒Germany, India‒Russia, and India‒Israel

Abstract

Why do some bilateral relationships have the ability to become strong, stable and amicable but others do not even when they have incentive to develop higher resilience? This article proposes that perceived relational identity differences between two states, or otherness, shapes and limits resilience in their relationship. Drawing on the existing IR identity literature, the article develops a conceptual and operational definition of otherness and proposes a useful and replicable framework that can be used to capture the complexity of bilateral ties. The article illustrates this framework with two types of cases. First, two historical “least-likely” cases (Germany–Israel, 1949–1973; India–USSR, 1947–1970) of higher resilience, in which one would not expect the resilient relationships that developed. Second, a most likely contemporary mini-case (India–Israel 1992–2012), which uncovers lower than expected resilience. The article then concludes with the implications of this framework for further academic research and policy analysis.

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Notes

  1. The World Bank, https://wits.worldbank.org/countrysnapshot/en/JPN.

  2. Special relationships such as those between the US and the UK, the US and Israel, and Germany and Israel have a strong common strategic security element, but what makes them special is that they share common values and ‘political and ideological interests’ (Gardner Feldman 1984; Bar-Siman-Tov 1998: 232‒33). They are about ‘we-ness’, which is shared values and a sense of common fate (Bially Mattern 2005: 16). ‘Hiccups’ in the course of the relationship do not substantially affect the overall higher resilience (Makovsky 2012: 22).

  3. The construction of the axis of the ideational issue or why one issue may dominate over others are interesting questions but outside the scope of this article.

  4. Based on the World Bank's World Integrated Trade Solutions https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/ISR/Year/2017/TradeFlow/EXPIMP/Partner/by-country.

  5. This can be extrapolated from the bilateral trade data with a 99% confidence interval (Barbieri et al. 2012).

  6. SIPRI Arms Transfer Database, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

  7. In June 1963, the US pressured Adenauer to send tanks, and in May 1964 the US pressed for military supplies to Israel in response to Khrushchev’s weapons sales to Egypt.

  8. An exception is the German intelligence community, which collaborated with the Israeli one even in those early years. But even this collaboration was not consistent and became more significant only after 1975 (Shapiro 2002).

  9. Between 2012 and 2016, Russia supplied 68 percent of India’s arms exports compared to 14 percent supplied by the US (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/russia-continues-to-be-indias-largest-defence-partner-4537993/). In 2018, Russia had cornered 70% of the Indian market (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-again-worlds-biggest-arms-importer-swedish-think-tank/articleshow/51093214.cms).

  10. This can be extrapolated from the bilateral trade data with a 95% confidence interval (Barbieri and Keshk, COW Data).

  11. This can be extrapolated from the bilateral trade data with a 99% confidence interval (Barbieri and Keshk, COW Data).

  12. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 1971.

  13. The one issue on which the USSR did express public support a few years earlier was the Kashmir dispute. After five years of silence about the dispute, the USSR in 1952 endorsed in the UN the position that the Kashmiris had indicated in favour of India through the elections to the Kashmir Assembly (Bhatia 1989: 109).

  14. Comparatively, the US exported $139 million worth of arms to India while Russia exported $3913 million (SIPRI Arms Transfer Database, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

  15. For the years 1992 to 2012 we collected all UN GA resolutions on Israel or issues directly affecting Israel. Since many had to do with the conflict in Israel/Palestine, we coded the resolutions as pro-Israel (1), anti-Israel (132), pro-Palestine (127), and neutral (6).

  16. See The National Interest, 10 December, 2014; First Post, 4 June, 2015; The Hindustan Times, 1 June, 2015.

  17. Written correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru and Albert Einstein (quoted in The Guardian, 15 February, 2005).

  18. Interview by author, Cambridge, MA USA, 11 October 2013. Interviewee requested to remain unnamed.

  19. Interview by author, Tel Aviv, Israel, 16 April 2013. Interviewee requested to remain unnamed.

  20. Ibid.

  21. Israel’s highly tenuous grasp of India’s identity concerns is evident from a music video that was produced by the leading Israeli government defence manufacturer RAFAEL to show at a defence expo in India in 2009, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktQOLO4U5iQ (last accessed on 6 June 2018).

  22. Interview by author, Tel Aviv, Israel, 17 April 2013, Interviewee requested to remain unnamed.

  23. Judy Dempsy, ‘A Deepening Rift Between Germany and Israel’, New York Times, 7 March, 2011, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/world/europe/08iht-letter08.html?_r=0 (last accessed on 6 June 2018).

  24. Barak Ravid, ‘Germany nixes gunboat subsidy to Israel, citing breakdown in peace talks’, Haaretz English Edition, 15 May, 2014, available at https://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.590996 (last accessed on 6 June 2018).

  25. In a 2004 poll, 68% of the respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Israel is waging a war of extermination against the Palestinians’, and 51% felt that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was ‘not so different’ from the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews during the Holocaust (Gershowitz and Emanuele 2005: 20).

  26. Ralf Neukirch, ‘Significant Escalation: Tensions Flare in German-Israeli Relations’, Spiegel Online International, 18 February, 2014, available at https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/relations-between-germany-and-israel-at-all-time-low-for-merkel-a-954118.html (last accessed on 6 June 2018).

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the participants of the International Security Program (ISP) Seminar and of the Conflict, Security, and Public Policy (CSPP) Workshop at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University for their questions and comments. Special thanks go to Jennifer M. Dixon and JIRD reviewers for their constructive suggestions.

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Ben-Josef Hirsch, M., Miller, M.C. Otherness and resilience in bilateral relations: the cases of Israel‒Germany, India‒Russia, and India‒Israel. J Int Relat Dev 24, 356–380 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-020-00194-9

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Keywords

  • Bilateral relations
  • Identity
  • India
  • Israel
  • Resilience
  • Russia