Commentary & Analysis

Home > What We Do >Commentary & Analysis

The Gaza Crisis and Japan’s Position

Writer: Noriko Suzuki*

The relationship between Israel and Palestine is deeply rooted in a complex history of territorial disputes and competing national aspirations, embedded with religious significance. Despite occasional periods of dialogue and attempts at peace agreements, achieving a lasting resolution remains elusive, reflecting the deep-seated distrust and conflicting territorial claims. The issues of borders, security, settlements, refugees, control of Jerusalem, and the status of Palestinian territories remain contentious, perpetuating a cycle of violence, negotiations, and intermittent peace efforts.

The Israel-Palestine conflict continues to be a central issue in the Middle East, garnering global attention and efforts at finding a viable and sustainable solution acceptable to both parties. Japan, as a prominent diplomatic entity, could potentially contribute to a resolution by laying out possible routes for a peaceful solution.

Israel and Japan have forged a multifaceted relationship since establishing formal ties in 1952 marked by mutual respect, economic cooperation, and technological collaboration. Their partnership spans various sectors, with a particular focus on innovation, science, and technology exchanges. Japan has consistently been a significant investor in Israel's tech industry, fostering joint research ventures and investments in cutting-edge fields such as cybersecurity, agriculture, and medical technology. Moreover, cultural exchanges, including academic programs and tourism, have further cemented the bond between the two nations, enhancing understanding and appreciation of each other's rich heritage and traditions.

Japan has also maintained a diplomatic relationship with Palestine for several decades, expressing support for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Japan has been an active contributor to Palestinian development through financial aid, humanitarian assistance, and various grassroots initiatives. Over the years, Japan has provided substantial financial support for infrastructure projects, healthcare, education, and institution-building efforts in Palestine, aiming to improve living conditions and foster socio-economic stability. Additionally, Japan has shown diplomatic engagement by hosting peace conferences and supporting initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue between Israel and Palestine.

While Japan maintains relations with both Israel and Palestine, it consistently advocates a twostate solution in its efforts to contribute to peace and stability in the region. Japan has consistently urged both parties to engage in direct dialogue to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace agreement. However, its role as a mediator in the conflict has been limited compared to other global powers due to various factors, including its historical ties, lack of direct involvement in the region's politics, and the dominance of other major powers in mediating the conflict.

Nevertheless, it can be argued that Japan's involvement in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict holds significance due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, Japan maintains a neutral stance in the conflict, positioning itself as an impartial mediator. This neutrality allows Japan to engage with  both Israel and Palestine, fostering dialogue and negotiations without perceived biases, thus enhancing its credibility as a mediator.

Secondly, Japan's history of diplomatic engagement and commitment to peaceful resolutions of geopolitical problems makes it a valuable player in international conflict resolution efforts. Japan has a track record of supporting humanitarian causes and promoting dialogue in various global conflicts, which bolsters its credibility in facilitating peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Moreover, Japan's economic strength and commitment to development aid can contribute significantly to rebuilding infrastructure, supporting economic development, and improving living conditions in Palestine. By providing substantial financial support and aid, Japan can play a pivotal role in fostering stability and growth in the region, addressing underlying socio-economic issues that often contribute to tensions.

Additionally, Japan's approach prioritizes a multilateral framework and international cooperation. Its participation in global forums and support for international law aligns with the broader international community's efforts to find a peaceful and just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Japan's emphasis on diplomacy, cooperation, and adherence to international norms can complement the efforts of other stakeholders involved in seeking a resolution.

Given the overall framework, Japan has several options it can pursue in terms of a possible approach to assist in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. This includes:

A) Diplomatic mediation: Actively engaging in dialogue and mediation efforts between the two parties, leveraging its neutral position to facilitate talks and foster understanding.

B) Humanitarian aid and development assistance: Providing substantial aid and support to Palestinians for infrastructure, education, healthcare, and economic development, which could potentially alleviate some tensions and improve living conditions.

C) Promoting peace initiatives: Endorsing and supporting international peace initiatives aimed at a two-state solution, encouraging negotiations and compromise between Israel and Palestine.

D) Economic investment and trade: Encouraging economic cooperation between Israel and Palestine, promoting joint ventures and investments to foster mutual dependence and cooperation.

E) Cultural and educational exchanges: Facilitating cultural and educational exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian communities to foster understanding, empathy, and trust among the people.

At the same time, Japan faces several obstacles in positioning itself as a neutral intermediary for the Israel-Palestine conflict. Firstly, Japan historically has maintained a close relationship with the United States, which traditionally supports Israel. This proximity might hinder Japan's perceived neutrality in the eyes of Palestinian leaders and supporters.

Secondly, Japan lacks direct historical or cultural ties with the region, potentially impacting its understanding of the deeply rooted complexities of the conflict. This lack of historical involvement might limit its ability to garner trust from both sides.

Additionally, Japan's reliance on Middle Eastern oil and its need to maintain stable relationships with the region's countries for economic reasons may pose challenges. It might be difficult for Japan to maintain the delicate balance required to mediate without appearing to prioritize its own economic interests.

Furthermore, the Israel-Palestine conflict involves multifaceted religious, territorial, and geopolitical issues, making it a highly sensitive and deeply entrenched matter. Japan's limited experience in mediating such conflicts might hinder its effectiveness in fostering meaningful dialogue and resolution between the parties.

Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida has repeatedly reaffirmed Japan’s support for a two-state solution and has expressed his concern regarding the ongoing violence. During his meeting in Tokyo last year with Rami Hamdallah, former prime minister of Palestine, Kishida released a statement emphasizing the need to refrain from any unilateral measures that go against the peace process, including settlement activities that are regarded as illegal by the UN. He noted that Japan will continue to contribute to the realization of an environment conducive to the advancement of Middle East peace.

Overall, Japan's neutral stance, diplomatic experience, economic strength, and commitment to international cooperation positions should be viewed as a valuable element in seeing efforts at resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict move forward. Its involvement can help facilitate dialogue, provide aid for development, and support the pursuit of a peaceful and sustainable resolution beneficial to both parties involved in order to end the seemingly endless cycle of violence in the region.

*Noriko Suzuki is a Senior Advisor with the Gulf Research Center

Download PDF