Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations

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BESA Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 107, 1 May 2014 (with Gil Feiler)

 

The relationship between the State of Israel and the Republic of Kazakhstan, a Muslim nation of 18 million, offers a fascinating case study in international relations. On the surface, one finds little common ground. Yet over the past two decades, mutual relations have acquired significance. Israel’s experience, innovation, and qualitative edge continue to provide solutions to Kazakhstan’s development imperatives. Diplomatic relations have evolved overtly and against the general grain of Islamic politics, and in some ways dovetail with Kazakhstan’s wider foreign policy outlook. Both countries report ongoing bilateral trade across a wide sweep of economic sectors. Likewise, there is evidence that suggests more extensive defense and security cooperation than meets the eye.

While high-tech and first-rate human capital stream towards the Kazakh steppe, raw energy and wheat flow toward the Mediterranean, the precise volumes of which are rarely ever presented to public scrutiny. Kazakh foreign policy draws strength from balance as well as the ability to parley with diametrically opposed actors. Relations with Kazakhstan allow Israel to circumvent its hostile near abroad, but also provide a bridge for Israel to re-engage with the wider Islamic world, particularly through the more neutral terrain of inclusive, interfaith dialogue that Astana has prominently championed. In all these ways, historical and material conditions have converged to facilitate cooperation. However, all this notwithstanding, much still surprisingly remains in potentia, andIsrael’s decision-makers would do well by not losing sight of a key partner in the Islamic world.

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