Israel complains about growing Chinese role in Middle East at Washington’s expense

Middle East Monitor  /  April 25, 2023

After China’s success in restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, political and diplomatic circles in Israel are anticipating a Chinese attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing the rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh brokered by Beijing. However, Israel remains committed to the US, and calls for its increased involvement in the Middle East.

“After the resumption of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran, mediated by Beijing, years after their separation, Israeli political circles predict that the Chinese are also trying to resolve another conflict in the Middle East, which has lasted for decades, the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” wrote political correspondent Itamar Eichner in Yedioth Ahronoth. “Hence, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen had a call with his Chinese counterpart Chen Gang, without Israel announcing that the conversation included any discussion about negotiations with the Palestinians, but rather confirming that they discussed the threat of the Iranian nuclear program.”

He added in a report translated by Arabi 21 that, “The Chinese announcement stated that the foreign minister spoke with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, Cohen and Riyad Al-Maliki, and focused with them on a completely different topic, which is the fear of escalating tensions between the two sides, and his support for the resumption of negotiations between them. He assured Cohen that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a good example of overcoming differences through dialogue, asking him to show political courage and move towards resuming dialogue with the Palestinians.”

These developments, noted Eichner, revealed to Israel the increased Chinese “interference” in the Middle East.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked in an interview with CNBC about it, and he said, ‘We respect China, we deal with China a great deal but we also know that we have an indispensable alliance with our great friend the United States.’ Military and security affairs commentator Ron Ben-Yishai pointed out that Washington considers Beijing a competitor and a major enemy in all economic and military fields, so it is concerning to Israel for China to strengthen its grip on the Middle East at the expense of the US, given that the US is Israel’s sponsor in the region.”