Published originally in Spanish in El Imparcial website
Typically, when Israel is mentioned in a political context in Spain, it is through the lens of occupation, conflict, and wars – simplified and negative perspectives of a complex country. In recent years, however, major changes have taken place in the region that will allow Spain to take a more active role in Israel and thereby grow its economy.
Seems strange or impossible? It is definitely not. Even Greece, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, supported an alliance with Israel, demonstrating that anything is possible. We must not forget that until he was elected, the Greek prime minister was anti-Israel and his party, Syriza, disapproved of any connection with Israel. We signed a gas agreement with Jordan and we are looking to build a gas pipeline with Greece and Cyprus. Moreover, Turkey signed a reconciliation agreement with Israel and trade between the two countries is increasing. India, China, Australia, African countries, and South American countries all seek an economic relationship with Israel with good reason.
In recent years, the governments of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been Prime Minister since 2009, have invested huge sums of the Israeli budget in infrastructure, technology, and transportation. Despite the opposition of the Israeli left, Netanyahu insisted on advancing the gas outline. Together, these investments have made Israel a true regional power with the ability to assist other countries in the region and around the world. For instance, much of the land of Israel is a desert, meaning that there is a natural scarcity of water. To remedy this, Israel has promoted desalination technology to purify salt water into drinking water, and Israel has begun to export this technology to arid countries across the globe. Furthermore, Be'er Sheva, the largest city in the South, was neglected until the government's heavy investment in transportation and cyber. This investment put Be'er Sheva only one hour from Tel Aviv and the Prime Minister's insistence on the transferring of IDF bases to the South led the city to become the cyber capital of the Eastern Hemisphere. Visitors from around the world visit the city to learn about cyber security.
Although dialogue with the Palestinian Authority may seem as if it is suffering gridlock, the danger of a nuclear Iran has led to cooperation between Israel and the Sunni states. In the context of such cooperation, Israel is promoting a number of initiatives which could benefit Spain and the European Union should they support it.
Israel's Minister of Transportation and of Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, has been promoting the establishment of an artificial island near the Gaza Strip that will give relief to the Gazans who have suffered under the Hamas regime, allowing Gazans to have a brighter future.
Minister Katz also promotes his plan for "regional peace railways" that will upgrade the transportation infrastructure so that railways will connect Haifa, not only to the Palestinian Authority, but also to Jordan and the Gulf states. Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement that will save the Dead Sea from drying up. Israel is also promoting the construction of several industrial zones that will advance the Palestinian Authority's economy.
This is no wonder. The economic outlook of Netanyahu and of many Israelis is in support of a free market economy which puts people first. Economically speaking, Israel does not see the countries of the region nor the Palestinian Authority as rivals, but instead as partners for development for the residents of our region.
While we will always continue to argue about political policies, we should focus on advancing the economic cooperation that will eventually lead to political solutions. Spain could play an important role in this new economy of the Middle East, and it is in Spain's interest to participate.
The writer is the Director of Foreign Affairs of the Likud Party.