On April 7th, 2019, AugmentIC Co-Directors Daniella Lang and Eitan Rotmensch interviewed Ambassador Ron Prosor. As an officer in the Artillery Division of the IDF, Mr. Prosor attained the rank of Major and completed the IDF Battalion Commanders course. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ambassador Prosor is the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), and a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute. Prior to joining the IDC, Prosor served as Israel’s 16th Permanent Representative to the United Nationals from 2011-2015. Mr. Prosor’s previous overseas service has included roles in Washington D.C., USA, London, England, and Bonn, Germany. A knowledgeable writer and commentator, Mr. Prosor’s op-eds have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Jerusalem Post.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
AugmentIC: At what point in your professional career did you become involved with China? How did you approach China as a diplomat?
Amb. Ron Prosor: I only began to interact with China once I was appointed to head Israel’s Foreign Service as Director General. Early on during my tenure I visited China and I immediately understood just how crucial China is and the significance of creating a China Strategy at the Foreign Ministry office. Since I was previously stationed in the Netherlands, I recruited our people from the Netherlands (FMO) to our new embassy in Shanghai. I spent my career in Europe and in the U.S. between 2004 and 2007. As Director General, I became very focused on China, and I pushed the Prime Minister on the subject.
During my inaugural visit as Director General, I realized the huge potential China represented on an economic and political level. I was really amazed by the degree of respect the Chinese hold for Jewish culture. I have to say, I am so happy I was right about the massive significance of China-Israel relations in that regard.
Our diplomatic strategy for jump starting relations was through business ties. Our goal was to incentivize various Chinese provinces with our (Israel’s) cutting edge technologies, specifically in watertech, agricultural tech, and the tech we were using in the dairy industry. There was an imperative need on the Chinese side, and we had some really creative and innovative answers.
Politically, I think that China (and most of Asia in fact) does not have the historical baggage that Europe brings to the table. To clarify, there is no history of persecution of Jews or anti semitism. In fact, if anything I felt and still do feel that the Chinese have a sort of positive anti-semitism; they respect the Jewish people and the struggles they have endured and the successes they have reach in spite of this. So, politically, this was a very exciting and refreshing prospect.
AugmentIC: How do you think Israelis should approach China?
RP: Israel needs to be realistic in reminding itself that China is an elephant and Israel is a mouse. We (Israelis) think we are mighty mouse, but we are still only a mouse. So the role we play is the geopolitical stance we hold, and that stance is based largely on our natural resources.
China’s foreign policy in the Middle East is about energy in capital letters. That is what Israel is up against. Iran and the Gulf states can offer energy resources to China, and, well Israel simply cannot.
Also - and this is something that Israelis grapple with - China is always functioning from an immense and comprehensive strategy. Israel is only a miniscule component. The Israeli perspective and strategy should think smaller; China’s vast provinces are competing against each other for economic and technological growth. Israeli companies need to approach individual provinces and understand the province’s needs. This is a more productive approach for Israel to China - The Province Strategy.
This is in fact what is so novel about China for Israel. Creating the bridge and connections between Israel and China is not just a government-to-government mission anymore. Rather, it is also a person-to-person and business-to-province initiative.