Good thing I have access to CCTV-English (Chinese state television) for international news or I would have totally missed the scoop that Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen new settlement activity in the Palestinian West Bank. CCTV-English is a free channel on Freeview, New Zealand’s free digital hook-up.
I suspect this relates to China recently surpassing Australia as our most important trade partner. It looks like World War III is about to break out any day now in Syria. Thus what I like most about CCTV-English is that they have a correspondent in Damascus (unlike US networks, the BBC or even Al Jazeera) with sources among rebel groups and the Syrian military. .
Two nights ago, I was really intrigued to learn that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in China at the time of the Israeli air strikes on Syria. So was Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. This was no accident, as China’s new president Xi Jinping was very hopeful the two leaders would take up his offer to mediate a meeting between them.
Israel’s Export Imperative
Netanyahu was in China hoping to increase exports to the world’s second largest economy. Given that 40% of Israel’s GDP is based on exports, Bibi is keen for trade with China(Israel’s number 3 trading partner) to reach $10 billion over the next three years. While also interested in increasing exports, Abbas is more interested in economic aid China has offered, as well the likelihood their intervention could shift the stalemated peace process.
China’s new president Xi Jinping has issued a four point proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to a statement issued by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying: “The immediate priority is to take credible steps to stop settlement activities, end violence against innocent civilians and lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks,”
She added that China is firmly opposed to Israel’s settlement construction in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel and that this places the primary obligation on Israel to remove the barriers for peace talks.
Bibi Gets the Message
Netanyahu seems to have got the message. Scarcely twelve hours later, Reuters was citing an Israeli Army Radio report that Netanyahu had frozen tenders for settlements in the West Bank. Given Netanyahu’s prior aggressive pro-settlement position, this is a historic concession. Reuter minimizes (in fact they omit it entirely) the role China played in prompting it. Typically the corporate media has buried the story with belligerent allegations about Chinese involvement in cyber espionage to steal US military and industrial secrets.
Abbas left China without agreeing to meet with Netanyahu. The Palestinian president stipulates Israel must accept 1967 Palestinian borders before he agrees to resume peace talks.