Ding Long: Israel to seek enhanced ties, further engagement in Middle East region's 'wave of reconciliation' in Netanyahu's reported China visit, Global Times
Publish time: 2023-06-29 Browsing times: 29

On June 28, 2023, Professor Ding Long of the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University gave an interview to Global Times on the announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to China (see Global Times, June 29, 2023, page 3), the full text of which is as follows:

Israel to seek enhanced ties, further engagement in Middle East

region's 'wave of reconciliation' in Netanyahu's reported China visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on Tuesday that he is set to visit China next month, and according to Chinese analysts on Wednesday, Israel will seek to enhance bilateral ties with China in the regional power rebalancing process at a time when countries in the Middle East have increasingly engaged in a wave of reconciliation since China brokered a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March. It will also serve as a reminder to the US that Israel has other diplomatic options than Washington, experts noted.

The Israeli premier announced his China trip when he met with US lawmakers in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The visit has not been officially announced by Israel or China as of press time.

However, Israeli local media said that Netanyahu's China visit comes at a time when ties between Israel and the US have suffered under the current government, with the Biden administration increasingly outspoken in its criticism of Israeli policies.

US President Joe Biden has publicly kept Netanyahu at arm's length. In March, he said Netanyahu would not be invited in the near term, in the context of the swirling protests in Israel against the government's plans to remake the judiciary.

Netanyahu's China visit would send the US a clear message that Israel could have multiple partners in different fields - having the US as its security partner and China as its political, trade and science and technology partner, Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that despite Biden government's displeasure and opposition, Israel will not make concessions over its policies.

Netanyahu's office said that Washington had been notified about the planned visit a month ago and insisted that ties with the US were at an all-time high, according to media reports.

The wording shows that Israel considers its alliance with the US as an existing asset that it hopes to maintain, and its relations with China as an increment that it hopes to enhance, and the two are not contradictory, Sun said, noting that by showing a pro-US yet not anti-China stance, Israel is voicing its reluctance to serve as a US pawn in Washington's scheming to contain China.

However, it would be an underestimation to think Netanyahu's upcoming trip is all about pressuring the US, experts point out. Ties between China and Israel have been warming over recent years, marked by cooperation especially in fields such as infrastructure and technology innovation. The US factor should not be considered as a deciding one in the development of China-Israel ties, Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Research Institute of Shanghai International Studies University.

The Middle East region is experiencing a major change after Saudi Arabia and Iran resumed relations with the help of China, and countries in the region have become increasingly engaged in a wave of reconciliation, Sun said.

Israel would need to catch up with the trend and enhance its relations with China during the trip to achieve its own power rebalancing, he noted.

Ding expects that during Netanyahu's visit, China would also persuade Israel to remove non-economic factors hindering China-Israel cooperation, such as US pressure to reject Chinese companies from participating in major infrastructure projects.

Israel and China have seen warming relations and more interest in Israeli innovations, especially in medical tech, robotics, food tech and artificial intelligence, the Times of Israel said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu's China visit would come following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Beijing trip earlier in June. During Abbas' trip in Beijing, China put forward a three-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

It proves that after brokering reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, China continues to show its determination to broker peace in the Middle East region, and addressing the Palestine-Israel conflict is high on the agenda to implement China's Global Security Initiative, Sun said.

It is hard for the US that has a special alliance with Israel to win trust from Palestine. But China with a strategic partnership with Palestine and an innovative comprehensive partnership with Israel at the same time, would be more likely to play the role of a mediator upholding unbiased justice, Sun noted. Therefore, Netanyahu's China visit itself showed that China's peace efforts have been further consolidated in the Middle East region.

Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations on Wednesday called for efforts to break the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and strive for common security.

It is important to break the cycle of violence. It is important to uphold the international rule of law and stop unilateral actions to change the status quo, and it is important to honor political commitments and advance the two-state solution, he told the Security Council, Xinhua reported.

It is alarming that some US politicians hold China's peace efforts to blame for Washington's waning influence in the Middle East region, analysts said. China and the US have great room for cooperation and share a great deal of common interests on topics such as the Palestine-Israel question, and their interaction should not be defined as a zero-sum game.

Source: Global Times

(The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author or the interviewee, and do not represent the position of this research institution)