The Israeli In KL

When Israeli diplomat David Roet attended a United Nations conference in Kuala Lumpur recently, the Opposition went into full swing trying to discredit the government saying that it wants to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

In a statement, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) explicitly states that the invitations to the Israeli delegates was issued by the UN as per Article III of the Host Country Agreement signed by the organisation and Malaysia so that the UN is able to conduct its conferences away from any of its established headquarters.

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The Article states, in part, that the Forum shall be opened to all UN member states and its Specialised Agencies. This was confirmed by Israel’s Hadashot TV which reported that Malaysia was compelled to host the Israelis, since it was required to grant visas to all delegations in order to hold the international conference.  Therefore, it is immaterial whether or not Malaysia has diplomatic relations with Israel.  It is for the same reason that Fidel Castro was able to attend the UN summit in New York in 1976, 1995 and 2000.

Malaysia-Israeli Relations

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If you walk along Jalan Zainal Abidin in Pulau Pinang which is just off Burmah Road near the Tune Hotel, you will come across an old cemetery.  That is a Jewish Cemetery.  Jalan Zainal Abidin was once called Jalan Yahudi or Jew Street, the only evidence that a Jewish enclave once existed on the island.

Israel first established contact with our pre-independence government in 1956 when Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett visited Malaya to propose the appointment of an Israeli consul in Malaya.  Israel also voted in favour of the Malayan bid to become a UN member in 1957.  Trade between the two countries was in place.  This was banned in 1974, after the Yom Kippur war, but indirect trade (through third countries) was in place.

An Opposition supporter was quick to point out that according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, between 2008 and 2011 trade between the two countries fluctuated considerably.  Israel’s exports to Malaysia peaked at USD798 million in 2010 while imports from Malaysia peaked in 2011 at USD93.6 million.

Although the preriod shown above shows the statistics was for the period between the end of Abdullah Badawi’s administration and the commencement of the Najib Razak administration, the flourish in trade could be traced back to the Mahathir administration.  In December 1993, as a consequence of the Oslo I Accord, Mahathir wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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Mahathir’s letter to Yitzhak Rabin in December 1993

The photo of the letter may be a bit difficult to read but I shall provide the transcript here:

PRIME MINISTER, MALAYSIA

21 December 1993

His Excellency Mr Yitzhak Rabin Prime Minister of Israel, JERUSALEM

I would like to thank you for your letter of 17 October informing me about the Agreement of Principles and Mutual Recognition between Israel and the PLO.

My government supports this positive development and views it as a first step towards the realization of a comprehensive solution to the Middle East problem. As a demonstration of Malaysia’s support to this development my country was represented at the Donor’s Conference to support The Middle East Peace held in Washington and subsequently pledged a modest financial contribution to the Palestinians to assist in their new tasks. My government has also offered the Palestinians technical assistance under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme.

Malaysia as a matter of general principle is prepared to develop relations with Israel at the appropriate time. In the meantime, we would like to see tangible progress in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The Middle East problem particularly the Palestinian issue has been a cause of instability to the region and I hope the recent agreement between Israel and PLO would contribute to lasting peace to the area.

I look forward to normal relations with Israel.

DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD

I intentionally made bold the last line because, while the rest of the content which, obviously was drafted by someone else, Mahathir wrote that bold part saying he looked forward to normal relations with Israel himself.  Yes, it was handwritten.

In the most recent diplomatic history, Obama wished to have normal relations with Cuba.  Diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba was subsequently restored.  The following year, PKR’s Chua Jui Meng, who was the then-Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry, suggested that Israel could eventually become a destination for Malaysia’s investments (Shanti Nair, Routledge, 1997 p.252).

As a result, in 1999 Israeli exports to Malaysia totalled USD107 million.  In 2000, it was USD732 million, and USD615.5 million the following year.  In 2002, the Israel Ministry of Industry report on trade relations with Indonesia and Malaysia advised Israelis interested in conducting business with Malaysian companies that “there is no opposition to trade and commerce relations as long as a low profile is kept“.

Discretion is essential for these companies, not just in Malaysia but also in Indonesia.  Reputation and financial damage are the risks for companies in these two countries if they are known to be doing trade with Israel.  According to Emanuel Shahaf, the vice chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, “There are two contradictory trends. The pro trend is that Indonesia demands more high-tech things… The negative trend is the political situation is not getting better (when it comes to Israel), in fact it’s getting worse.”

Mahathir’s son Mukhriz, who was the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry in 2011 confirmed that Malaysia has had bilateral trade relations with Israel since 1996.

Mukhriz tweeted “Upon request from large foreign investors here, in 1996 the Cabinet instructed MITI to approve import from and export to Israel.” The relevation came as a surprise, especially as the trade ties were established during the Mahathir administration.  Mahathir has been a vocal opponent of Israel and continues to project this false stand via his Perdana Leadership Foundation which openly opposes Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.  Najib took over from Abdullah only in 2009.

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So, thank you Mahathir for his eagerness to start a diplomatic relationship with Israel in 1993.

Congratulations also to the Opposition states as they received a lot of FDI from Israeli companies.  Don’t forget to thank Mukhriz for that information and confirmation.

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Shalom Alekhem!

Sever The Ties

Kang Chol without his Jaguar
Kang Chol without his Jaguar if he is not an Ambassador – photo courtesy of Eric Lafforgue

VX is an extremely toxic substance which has no other use except as a chemical warfare nerve agent. Whoever is exposed to the agent must wash off the agent using household bleach and lots of water, and should immediately be given diazepam, atropine and pralidoxime intramuscular injections.

For the VX nerve agent to be transported safely to KLIA2 for the attack, it would have to be in a binary form, mixed during the attack itself.

Kim Jong Nam would have died painfully from asphyxiation after suffering violent muscular contractions and diaphragm muscle paralysis.

The above is the most plausible reason for Kang Chol to have pre-empted everything by attacking the Royal Malaysian Police’s and Ministry of Health’s credibility even before the autopsy is completed.

The above would also underscore the fact that the two women from Indonesia and Vietnam are not innocent as claimed.  They were seen immediately rushing off to the nearest restroom facility after the attack to wash off traces of the agent from their hands.

Malaysis has signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention that came into effect in 1997, and also the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare or commonly known as the Geneva Protocol.

The use of a chemical weapon on Malaysian soil, as well as the rude outbursts by the Ambassador of North Korea to Malaysia shows North Korea’s blatant disregard for Malaysian laws and breached Article 41(1) of the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

Malaysia exported RM17.54 million worth of goods (mainly palm oil, rubber and medical products) to North Korea while importing only RM5.18 million (iron and steel products) from the hermit state in 2015. There are 300 North Koreans working in the coal mines of Sarawak.

As the only country in the world to have been accorded a visa-free status by North Korea, very few Malaysians have ever made use of the facility.

While Malaysia is a country that warms up to every country and values its friendship, the same cannot be said about North Korea.

Myanmar’s diplomatic relations with North Korea was once far more meaningful than the one currently enjoyed by Malaysia.  However, in trying to assassinate the then-South Korean President, North Korea pushed diplomacy aside and planted a bomb in Yangon in 1983 which killed 20 people but did not kill President Chun Doo Hwan.

Myanmar broke off diplomatic relations for a decade following the attack on its soil.

Now, it has caused anger to the country it courted in 1973 and established formal diplomatic relations in 1993.  There is no telling what North Korea is capable of doing to or in Malaysia given its disrespect for the laws and regulations of the latter.

I doubt that we would lose much if we were to sever our diplomatic ties with North Korea.  Our trade volume is only RM25 million.  Even Perlis as the smallest state in Malaysia made RM88.3 billion in GSP in 2015!

North Korea is no friend and has never valued any friendship.  It should be left to live and die alone.

Trumped

Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America
Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America

A few hours before Hillary Clinton conceded defeat, signs were everywhere that she was heading down the abyss.  On Twitter people were talking about moving to Canada while the Canadian Immigration website crashed for reasons not yet known to us.  Hillary finally conceded defeat making Trump the President-elect.  The next four years of his Presidency is going to be worth watching.

I can understand how the supporters of the Democrats feel right now, my home state of Selangor fell to what was the Barisan Alternatif in 2008 and the first 24 hours was filled with uncertainties.  In the end, it was business as usual albeit having to sufer the occasional water outtages as well as incompetent solid wastes collection contractors.  Other than that the state runs on autopilot while the politicians in charge of the state are busy giving ceramahs non-stop.

Trump has promised to make America great again.  To make America great again America’s military would also be made great.  It also means that America’s businesses will be given priority over foreign-owned ones.

How does this augur for Malaysia?

Firstly, the Republican-heavy Congress would not pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as Trump sees the TPPA as a vehicle that would allow Asian businesses to take over the American economy.  If it were to go ahead a major tweaking of the TPPA needs to be done – tariffs would be raised to favour the American economy and that would not go down well with the other potential TPPA partners.  Anyhow, with the TPPA still not ratified, Trump is likely to hold to his pledge to withdraw the United States from the free-trade agreement.  The good thing from that would be Malaysia’s continued hold on its protectionist policies aimed at preserving the Bumiputra rights as well as the protection for local industries.

Malaysia’s manufactured exports to the US saw an increase by 13 percent recently.  With Trump favouring the great American economy, this would be greatly affected since Malaysia’s economy is 90 percent reliant on exports.  Nomura Holdings in early July 2016 in a report titled ‘Trumping Asia’ bluntly said that if Trump wins, Asia loses.  The Philippines would be the country in the South East Asian region that would be most affected by Trump’s Presidency while Malaysia is fourth after Indonesia.

Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura
Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura

It is not surprising then to see Prayuth Chan-O-Cha of Thailand, Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Duterte of the Philippines and Najib Razak of Malaysia visit China in May, September, mid October and end October respectively to strengthen economic ties and increase trade with China.  These leaders must have predicted that the Democrats would lose to the GOP and knew that if trade is not increased with the largest Asian economic power these nations would stand to lose.  Purchasing the Chinese corvettes was definitely a good decision now given that any purchase from the Western powers would come with lots of strings attached.

China is not without danger because of Trump’s Presidency.  With levels breaching the USD 600 billion level, China is the US’s largest trading partner, and as President, Trump could impose punitive duties that includes a 15 percent tariff on China for a maximum of 150 days without having to go to Congress for approval.

Militarily, Trump had made a statement on China’s expansion in the South China Sea. “We have rebuilt China, and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen,” Trump said. “Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”

I am of the opinion that the term “We have rebuilt China” used by Trump is the large balance of payments deficit that the US has with China.  If the US could ‘prove’ that China is a currency manipulator, which the US Treasury could easily declare without needing the approval of the Congress, it could trigger a range of trade restrictions against China – a form of pressure for China to ‘respect’ the US as required by Trump to make America great again.  Which is why the visit by Najib Razak to China recently was not an act of ‘kow-towing‘ to a Big Brother, but rather saying “Malaysia is a friend, how can you (China) help us so we can help you?”  China now needs its South East Asian neighbours as well as Russia as its allies.

We have stepped into an era that will be filled with surprises and not less scarily challenging.  The only consolation is that George Soros who finances both the Hillary campaign machinery as well as the Opposition and pro-Opposition organisations in Malaysia will find it hard to thrive.  Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill Trump should look into the affairs of the Open Society Institute and how its financing of the Arab Spring has given rise to the terrorist activities in North Africa, the Middle East as well as in South East Asia and take criminal action against the OSI.

As Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister said early this year, “We are all discovering Donald Trump, as he is himself: there is a stream of consciousness approach to policy pronouncements. One can only hope that it evolves towards addressing the strategic interests of the United States in the world.”

There may be a side to Donald Trump that we have not yet seen.  Others with better insight into things would probably have a better read of his character.  Of course, I am not talking about the Pribumi supremo. He never has anything good to say.

Madman
Madman

Trump would also need friends as China does, and he would look at nations with leaders who are level-headed as they are smart.  I was about to end this post when I saw this Tweet on my timeline:

A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent
A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent

Apparently, not only is Najib Razak a golf buddy of Barack Obama.  He is also Trump’s favourite Prime Minister, as signed on a photograph taken of the two of them.  As I said, leaders have to have foresight and know what is best for the country he leads.  And a line in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII that reminds me exactly of this situation:

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself.

Najib Razak's looking forward to meeting Trump...again
Najib Razak’s looking forward to meeting Trump…again

I call that a masterstroke from a great Statesman.

Gut Gemacht

Dato Sri Najib Razak flanked by Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong at the press conference in Germany at 1500UTC on the 28th September 2016
Dato Sri Najib Razak flanked by Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong at the press conference in Germany at 1500UTC (11pm Malaysian time) on the 28th September 2016
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 3-day visit to Germany has been a success.  Starting with a dialogue session with German Business Leaders made up of 24 German renowned companies and four Malaysian companies that have invested in Germany, together with various trade and industrial associations that have operations and investments in Malaysia.  This dialogue session focused on the manufacturing sector as Germany is a renowned high-technology industrial nation that is highly innovative especially in the automotive, machineries, electrical and the electronics sectors.

The objective of this dialogue session was not only to inform the German business community about the two-way trade and investments between the two nations, but also to obtain feedbacks and views from German investors.  With Germany being the largest trading partner from the European Union, with investments in the manufacturing sector reaching USD11.4 billion, it is apt for Malaysia to propose itself to become the host for the 16th German Asia-Pacific Business Conference.  The last time Malaysia played host to this conference was in 2000.

Najib Razak also witnessed and attended MoU signing ceremonies and trade discussions with companies that are involved in the pipeline, semiconductor, aviation, automotive as well as the shipping industries with one company committing to a second wave of investment to set up three competence centers.

The Prime Minister also held a bilateral meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel discussing international terrorism, the refugee situation as well as the South China Sea disputes.

In another development, Najib Razak says that Malaysia wants to see those involved in the crime of the downing of Flight MH17 to be brought to justice, and would like to see nations involved to hold a discussion to identify the ways forward to fulfill promises made to the victims’ next-of-kin.

It is unfortunate that Mahathir thinks that Malaysia has slid into the abyss of failed states when she continues to enjoy the confidence of foreign businesses and investors and continue to prosper under the stewardship of Najib Razak.