Japan’s Diplomatic Dilemma in the Middle East Amid Israel-Hamas War

Japan, a country that has long maintained friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians, has found itself in a difficult position as the war between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate. Japan has expressed its concern over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, Japan has also refrained from condemning either side for the violence and has avoided taking sides in the complex and sensitive issue.

Japan’s cautious and balanced approach reflects its strategic interests and historical legacy in the Middle East, as well as its desire to play a constructive role in the region. Japan has strong economic and security ties with Israel, which is a key partner in the fields of technology, innovation, and counterterrorism. Japan also has deep-rooted sympathy and support for the Palestinians, who have suffered from displacement and oppression for decades. Japan has been one of the largest donors to the Palestinian Authority and has promoted the two-state solution as the basis for a lasting peace.

Japan faces criticism and pressure from different actors in the region

Japan’s moderate and neutral stance, however, has not been well received by some actors in the region, who have urged Japan to take a clearer and stronger position on the conflict. On one hand, Japan has faced criticism and disappointment from some of its Arab and Muslim allies, who have condemned Israel’s aggression and demanded its accountability for the civilian casualties and the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza. Japan has also been pressured to join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which aims to isolate and punish the Jewish state for its occupation and violation of Palestinian rights.

On the other hand, Japan has also faced expectations and requests from some of its Western and democratic partners, who have defended Israel’s right to self-defense and blamed Hamas for the escalation of the violence. Japan has also been asked to support the Abraham Accords, which are a series of normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The accords, which were brokered by the United States in 2020, aim to enhance cooperation and stability in the region and to counter the influence of Iran.

Japan seeks to maintain its credibility and influence in the Middle East

Japan, which has no direct stake or historical responsibility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has tried to balance its relations with different actors in the region and to avoid alienating any of them. Japan has reiterated its commitment to the peace and stability of the Middle East and to the welfare and dignity of its people. Japan has also offered its assistance and mediation to help end the hostilities and to resume the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

Japan’s diplomatic dilemma in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war is not new or unique. Japan has faced similar challenges in the past, such as during the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraq War in 2003, and the Arab Spring in 2011. Japan has always tried to maintain its credibility and influence in the region by adapting to the changing circumstances and pursuing its own interests. Japan’s rocky road and balancing act with Israel and the Palestinians is likely to continue as the war rages on and the prospects for peace remain elusive.

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