Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday a wave of anti-Semitism and what he called “Islamization” in Western Europe are factors in a push to expand trade with Asia.
Europe is Israel’s biggest trading partner, but a deepening diplomatic rift has triggered Israeli worries.
Netanyahu, who is also filling in as finance minister until elections, and a free-market champion, cast his courting of China, India and Japan over the past two years as a partial response to European developments.
He hosted a delegation of Japanese officials and a hundred heads of business led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday.
“I put emphasis on markets to the East not because we want to give up on other markets. But we definitely want to reduce our dependence on certain markets in western Europe,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, without naming specific countries.
“Western Europe is undergoing a wave of Islamization, of anti-Semitism, and of anti-Zionism. It is awash in such waves, and we want to ensure that for years to come the state of Israel will have diverse markets all over the world.”
“I remind you that Japan’s economy is the third largest in the world, and there is a mutual wish, reflected by my visit to Japan several months ago, for closer ties, increased trade and greater investment between Israel and Japan,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
“This corresponds to my clear vision of diversifying our markets. It was reflected in my visit to China a year and a half ago, and in meetings at the last U.N. General Assembly with the prime minister of India, and now the visit with Japan. It’s part of Israel’s opening to eastern markets.”
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Europe accounted for 45.8 percent of imports and 35.8 percent of exports in the first 11 months of 2014. Asia accounted for 22.5 percent of Israeli imports and 25.4 percent of Israeli exports.
Israel’s Knesset channel aired the results of a poll in which respondents were asked “Can Israel do without exports to Europe and pursue policy that is liable to bring about an economic embargo?” Sixty-two percent of Israelis said no, 32 percent said yes.