Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations

By and May 1, 2014

Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 107

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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(Photo Credit: Wikicommons)

Dr. Gil Feiler
Dr. Gil Feiler

Dr. Gil Feiler is managing director of Info-Prod Research, Ltd, and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Email: [email protected]

Kevjn Lim

Kevjn Lim is an independent researcher focusing on foreign policy and security in the Middle East and Central Asia. He is also analyst with the UK-based Open Briefing: The Civil Society Intelligence Agency.