Friday, January 13, 2017

China's Middle East Dilemma: Israel or Palestine? Israel or Palestine?

China’s balancing act between the two is increasingly difficult to maintain.

By Wang Jin

THE DIPLOMAT - January 10, 2017

As a key state along China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, Israel’s unique geographic location, stable political and social order, as well as advanced technology are vital for China’s successful economic involvement in the Middle East. At the same time, however, given the importance of establishing China’s image in international society, especially among Arab states, China has to support Palestine’s efforts for independence and statehood. Whenever Israel-Palestine tensions flare, China has to walk on eggshells to avoid offending either side.
In a recent incident that shocked the Chinese public, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intent to limit diplomatic relations with China and other states that supported UN Security Council Resolution No. 2334, which denounced Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territory… including East Jerusalem.” As a permanent member state of the UN Security Council, China approved the resolution. Resolution 2334 was heavily criticized by both the Israeli government and many Israel political analysts. Their major concern was that the resolution was unbalanced and did not distinguish between the Western Wall and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Many Israelis believed the resolution rewards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to apply international pressure to Israel and thus makes Abbas less willing to participate in direct talks with the state.