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Israel– China relations and the pervasive annoyance shown by the United States

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Photo: Feng Yongbin / China Daily

Israel was the first of the Near and Middle East countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China in 1950, while diplomatic relations have been established since January 24, 1992.

It is important to recall that the relations between Chinese and Jews are deeply rooted in the long history of these two peoples and go back thousands of years.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, government officials, scientists, universities and companies have carried out many programmes – through delegations – to deepen special cooperation on various issues such as economy, agriculture, technology and education.

Significant examples of the strengthening of relations can be found, inter alia, in the frequent visits of Chinese government officials to Israel and vice versa. For example, many Israeli Prime Ministers and Presidents have visited China over the years, as have their Chinese counterparts, such as the President of the Republic of China, Jiang Zemin, who visited the country in 2000, and the members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Liu Chi (2007) and Liu Yunshan (2009). Significant visits were also paid to the country by Vice Premier Hui Yang (2010), Vice Premier Liu Iandong (2016), and a senior representative of the Chinese Parliament, Wang Da (September 2015), etc.

Israel-China relations in many areas are gaining momentum and there is considerable enthusiasm for their nature and depth, particularly for all that relates to business and the supply of Israeli technology.

Over the years, a series of agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed between Israel and China to establish a free trade zone, to improve the mechanisms for granting visas to the citizens of the other country and to increase airline flights, with the aim of maximising the amount of goods, workers and tourists coming in and out.

China is also the only country in the world with which Israel has a mutual agreement to issue multiple-visit visas for a long period of time. These have borne immediate fruit, with over 100,000 Chinese tourists who have come to Israel since 2018. This means that more tourists come to Israel from China than tocountries such as Italy, Canada and Australia.

  The different needs of the two countries are reflected in the nature of the goods and services they purchase from each other. Electronic components account for about half of Israel’s exports to China, and the rest is divided between chemicals, medical equipment, instrumentation, control, etc. Instead, imports from China focus on electrical machinery and equipment, textiles and metals.

China’s weaknesses are precisely the strengths of the Israeli market. Large-scale internal migration, accelerated urbanisation processes, lack of drinking water and management of severe environmental pollutants are some of China’s huge challenges.

  Israel can rise up to these challenges with the help of advanced medical technologies, agricultural developments for increasing water shortages and difficult soil conditions, and innovative desalination technologies, etc. The match between the needs of China and Israel is perfect.

Furthermore, Israel has not been indifferent to the One Belt One Road (the Silk Road), i.e. the ambitious plan to connect the world with a network of roads, railways, lanes, ports and harbours, funded by the Asian Infrastructure Bank.

Israel has joined as a member of the Aib, striving to promote the involvement of Israeli companies in Chinese infrastructure projects and to position Israel as a strategic transition country in the trade routes of the modern Silk Road. Meanwhile, Chinese companies are involved in major infrastructure projects in Israel, such as the Minharot Ha Carmel (Carmel Tunnels) project, the construction and operation of the ports of Ashdod and Haifa, as well as the construction of a football stadium and light metro in Gush Dan, etc.

The economic revival of China-Israel relations, together with the leading status of China’s economy in recent years, have led many companies and executives to recognise the attractiveness of the Chinese market and the importance of learning about the Chinese economy and culture.

Obviously all this can only annoy the Administration of the bumbling U.S. President, Joe Biden, who is also supervising China-Israel relations, since Israel is about to be regarded by the White House as its own semi-colony.

According to the United States, Israel should start a rethinking dialogue with Biden’s Administration leading to an understanding of the Israel-China relation pattern so as not to “harm” the important U.S. interests.

  The hopes of those who thought that Joe Biden’s election as U.S. President might ease the transatlantic pressure on Israel with regard to China have been dashed. Not only will the pressure not diminish, but it is also likely to increase.

Former Trump administration’s continued insistence on reducing Chinese involvement in Israel has been one of the key issues in the U.S.-Israeli agenda over the last two years. U.S. officials have warned their Israeli counterparts that the lack of a Jewish response would seriously undermine security cooperation between the two countries.

  Instead, President Biden and his Administration’s plans should be more careful and encourage cooperation between the powers in specific areas, including the fight against climate change. At the same time, during the election campaign, Biden was more threatening than Trump on a number of China-related issues. Biden described the repression of Uygur Muslims (Weiwuer) in Xinjiang as “genocide” and called President Xi Jinping a “thug”. Not to mention the clumsy President’s epithets against Putin.

After all, one of the clumsy President’s gimmicks in U.S. foreign policy is to rebuild relations with allies in view of a Salem-style crusade against China.

There is no reason to believe that Biden’s Administration will not expect from Israel what it expects from the rest of its allies. The illusion that Israel can continue to “do business as usual” with China and “get along” with U.S. demands is dangerous, because -as already said – Israel is not a U.S. colony.

Moreover, Israeli attempts not to submit to White House diktats could harm not only the relations between the Israeli government and the U.S. Administration, but also the relations with its most significant supporters in the Senate and Congress, who share China’s alleged threat to the United States.

The assessment that China is a tough adversary and a threat to the U.S. national security is the only political-strategic issue on which Democrats and Republicans agree.

For this reason, it is hard to believe that the United States will ignore Chinese investment in Israeli high-tech industry and cooperation between Israeli and Chinese research institutes in the high-tech sector: Big Data, artificial intelligence and cyber issues.

In terms of U.S. national interest, reducing China’s access to advanced technologies is a critical issue. Therefore, the U.S. interference in trade and financial relations in the high-tech industry and in research and development cooperation between Israel and China is probably only a matter of time.

In the two previous crises with the United States over defence exports to China (some fifteen and twenty years ago), Israel believed it would get away with it; hence it tried to implement the agreements with China “and get along” with the United States. In the end, Israel got out badly and there was a crisis in relations with both the United States and China.

In the race for technological superiority, the United States could see the sharing of Israeli knowledge and products with China as a far more significant threat to its national security than radar systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The Israeli government’s ability to deal with the United States will be severely damaged if its policy towards China is presented as undermining U.S. national security.

Under these circumstances, the Israeli government – under threat – will surely change its approach to the issue, rather than wait for pressure and hope for the best. Israel should start a dialogue on an equal footing with Biden’s Administration to promote an understanding of the pattern of relations between Israel and China so as not to harm important U.S. interests. This could enable Israel to have a respectful dialogue with China on the future relations between the two countries.

  As such, this would not be a ‘surrender’ to U.S. diktats. If the Israeli government expects the United States to start using the blackmail of Israeli interests vis-à-vis Iran, Israel in turn should show consideration for U.S. interests vis-à-vis China.

At the same time, however, Israel shall assess China’s aims and moves in the Near and Middle East region and develop a clear policy with it, by developing instruments and channels to achieve its aims in relations with China, without letting the United States put a spoke in its wheel or clip its wings.

Regarding Iran-Israel scenario issues, China has reiterated its proposal to hold an international meeting with the participation of all the countries involved in the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of July 14, 2015 between Iran and the five UN Security Council countries, plus Germany and the European Union), including the United States, to discuss the U.S. return to the agreement.

On the eve of the first telephone conversation between the U.S. and Chinese Presidents (February 11, 2021), a meeting took place between the U.S. special envoy on the Iranian issue and the Chinese vice-Foreign Minister to coordinate moves in this regard. The proactive mediation on the Iranian nuclear issue may be part of a broad Chinese policy designed to promote cooperation with Biden’s Administration on issues of substance for the United States, in exchange for maintaining important interests for China – such as the relations with Israel – and as part of its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Few considerations are now appropriate with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. While Western pharmaceutical companies operate as independent, for-profit commercial entities, the Chinese government leads and orients the research and development efforts of its own governmental and private companies in the same way and integrates them as instruments into its policies through official visits on the international scene, cooperation agreements, vaccination commitments or loans. Therefore, as shown by the map of vaccination certificates in various countries, the vaccines developed in China are among the most sought-after ones.

Israel’s urban population is concentrated and dense. After the pandemic broke out, Covid-19 spread faster. In view of preventing its spread, multiple Israeli departments have strengthened joint prevention and control. At the same time, the Israeli government actively participates in international cooperation, and uses video conferences to learn from China’s anti-epidemic experience.

  In conclusion, political diplomacy and the care with which China deals with every aspect, ranging from foreign affairs to health issues, pays off more than clumsy words tossed around randomly.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Middle East

Iraq: Three Years of Drastic Changes (2019-2022)

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When the wave of the protests broke out at the beginning of October 2019 in Iraq, the Iraqi politicians did not realize the size of the gap between the demands of the protesters which were accumulated more than seventeen years, and the isolation of the politicians from the needs of the people. The waves of the protests began in a small range of different areas in Iraq. Rapidly, it expanded as if it were a rolling snowball in many regions of Iraqi governorates. Moreover, the platforms of social media and the influencers had a great impact on unifying the people against the government and enhancing the protest movement.

Al Tarir Square was the region where most protesters and demonstrators were based there. At that time, they stayed all day in this region and set up their tents to protest and demonstrate against the public situation of their life.

The protesters demanded their looted rights and asked for making economic reforms, finding job opportunities, changing the authority, and toppling the government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The protest stayed between ebb and tide, pressuring the political authority in Iraq.

A new period began in the history of Iraq where clashes between the protesters and the riot forces broke out in Al Tahrir Square and many governorates in the south of Iraq. Tear gas and ductile bullets were used against the protesters to compel them to retreat and disperse them. But the protesters insisted on continuing their demands. Many protesters were killed and wounded due to the intensive violence against them. The strong pressure with falling many martyrs gave its fruit when the Iraqi representatives of the Parliament endeavored to achieve the protesters’ demands by changing the election law into a new one. On 24 December 2019, the Iraqi Parliament approved of changing the unfair Saint Leigo election law into the open districts. The new law divided Iraq into 83 electoral districts.

Moreover, this violent protest led to the collapse of the Iraqi government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. He was compelled to resign by the end of 2019. Many political names were nominated by the Iraqi politicians but the protesters refused them all because they were connected with different political parties.

Finally, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who worked in the Iraqi Intelligence Service and had no party, was nominated by the politicians to be the new Prime Minister. He was well-known for ambiguity and far from the lights of media.

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has become the Prime Minister in March 2020. The protests were over at the beginning of April 2020. With the taking of responsibility of helping Iraq, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi promised the protesters, who were called “Octoberians”, to hold a premature election, and the election was fixed on 10 June 2020.

Many politicians tried to postpone or cancel the premature election. Under their pressure, the premature election was postponed and fixed on 10 October 2020. During Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s period as a Prime Minister, he opened new channels with the Arab states to enhance the cooperation and held many summits to support Iraq in the next stage.

Attempts to postpone the premature election by the Iraqi politicians were on equal foot, but all these attempts failed and the election occurred on the due time.

Before the election, many Octoberians and influencers encouraged the people not to participate in the election. On the day of the election, it witnessed low participation, and people were convinced of not happening any change. These calls gave their fruits in the process of elections in Iraq where the election witnessed very low participation, and most Iraqis refused to participate and vote to the nominees even though there was a new election law. When the elections were over, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq announced that the results would be within two days. After announcing the results of the election partially and defeating many political factions in the Iraqi arena, many convictions were directed to the commission, and it was convicted by fraud and manipulation with the results. This aspect affected the activity of the Commission and led to put great pressure on it. After two weeks of pressure and convictions, the final results of the elections were announced and many political elite Iraqi leaders were defeated gravely.

The results of the election gave a new start through new leaders who were supporting the October revolution that happened in 2019. And most names of these winning movements and alliances were inspired by the October Movement. Those, who represented October Revolution, were also convicted by other Octoberians that Octoberian winners in the election deviated from the aims of the October Revolution.

A new struggle has begun between the losers in the election and the new winners who will have the right to be in the next term of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Representatives. Moreover, many independent individuals won in the election, and the conflict would deepen the scope of dissidence between the losers and winners. Finally, all raised claims of election fraud have not changed the political situation.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.  The Shiite Sadrist movement, which represents 73 seats, has wiped out its competitors. This aspect has compelled the losing Shiite competitors to establish an alliance called “Coordination Framework” to face the Sadrist movement, represented by the cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sader. On the other hand, Al-Takadum Movement (Progress Party), represented by the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives, Mohamed Al-Halbousi, has taken the second rank with 37 seats.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.

Finally, the first session of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council was held. Mohamed Al-Halbousi has been elected as the spokesman of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council. During the next fifteen days, the president of the republic will be elected.

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China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian that Beijing would firmly support a resumption of negotiations on a nuclear pact [China Media Group-CCTV via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the city of Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province.  Both of them discussed a gamut of issues pertaining to the Iran-China relationship, as well as the security situation in the Middle East.

A summary of the meeting published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the point, that Foreign Ministers of Iran and China agreed on the need for  strengthening bilateral cooperation in a number of areas under the umbrella of the 25 year Agreement known as ‘Comprehensive Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China’. This agreement had been signed between both countries in March 2021 during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani, but the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the launch of the agreement on January 14, 2022.

During the meeting between Wang Yi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian there was a realization of the fact, that cooperation between both countries needed to be enhanced not only in areas like energy and infrastructure (the focus of the 25 year comprehensive cooperation was on infrastructure and energy), but also in other spheres like education, people to people contacts, medicine and agriculture. Iran also praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and said that it firmly supported the One China policy.

The timing of this visit is interesting, Iran is in talks with other signatories (including China) to the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal 2015 for the revival of the 2015 agreement. While Iran has asked for removal of economic sanctions which were imposed by the US after it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, the US has said that time is running out, and it is important for Iran to return to full compliance to the 2015 agreement.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview said

‘Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’

The US Secretary of State also indicated, that if the negotiations were not successful, then US would explore other options along with other allies.

During the course of the meeting on January 14, 2022 Wang Yi is supposed to have told his Chinese counterpart, that while China supported negotiations for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal 2015, the onus for revival was on the US since it had withdrawn in 2018.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to China was also significant, because Foreign Ministers of four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — and Secretary General of GCC,  Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf were in China from January 10-14, 2022 with the aim of expanding bilateral ties – especially with regard to energy cooperation and trade. According to many analysts, the visit of GCC officials to China was driven not just by economic factors, but also the growing proximity between Iran and Beijing.

In conclusion, China is important for Iran from an economic perspective. Iran has repeatedly stated, that if US does not remove the economic sanctions it had imposed in 2018, it will focus on strengthening economic links with China (significantly, China has been purchasing oil from Iran over the past three years in spite of the sanctions imposed by the US. The Ebrahim Raisi administration has repeatedly referred to an ‘Asia centric’ policy which prioritises ties with China.

Beijing is seeking to enhance its clout in the Middle East as US ties with certain members of the GCC, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a clear downward spiral in recent months (US has been uncomfortable with the use of China’s 5G technology by UAE and the growing security linkages between Beijing and Saudi Arabia). One of the major economic reasons for the GCC gravitating towards China is Washington’s thrust on reducing its dependence upon GCC for fulfilling its oil needs. Beijing can utilize its good ties with Iran and GCC and play a role in improving links between both.

The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is likely to become more complex, and while there is not an iota of doubt, that the US influence in the Middle East is likely to remain intact, China is fast catching up.

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Egypt vis-à-vis the UAE: Who is Driving Whom?

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Image source: atalayar.com

“Being a big fish in a small pond is better than being a little fish in a large pond” is a maxim that aptly summarizes Egyptian regional foreign policy over the past few decades. However, the blow dealt to the Egyptian State in the course of the 2011 uprising continues to distort its domestic and regional politics and it has also prompted the United Arab Emirates to become heavily engaged in Middle East politics, resulting in the waning of Egypt’s dominant role in the region!

The United Arab Emirates is truly an aspirational, entrepreneurial nation! In fact, the word “entrepreneurship” could have been invented to define the flourishing city of Dubai. The UAE has often declared that as a small nation, it needs to establish alliances to pursue its regional political agenda while Egypt is universally recognized for its regional leadership, has one of the best regional military forces, and has always charmed the Arab world with its soft power. Nonetheless, collaboration between the two nations would not necessarily give rise to an entrepreneurial supremacy force! 

Egypt and the UAE share a common enemy: political Islamists. Yet each nation has its own distinct dynamic and the size of the political Islamist element in each of the two countries is different. The UAE is a politically stable nation and an economic pioneer with a small population – a combination of factors that naturally immunize the nation against the spread of political Islamists across the region. In contrast, Egypt’s economic difficulties, overpopulation, intensifying political repression, along with its high illiteracy rate, constitute an accumulation of elements that serves to intensify the magnitude of the secreted, deep-rooted, Egyptian political Islamists.

The alliance formed between the two nations following the inauguration of Egypt’s President Al Sisi was based on UAE money and Egyptian power. It supported and helped expand the domestic political power of a number of unsubstantiated Arab politicians, such as Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied and the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan. The common denominator among these politicians is that they are all fundamentally opposed to political Islamists.

Although distancing political Islamists from ruling their nations may constitute a temporary success, it certainly is not enough to strengthen the power of the alliance’s affiliates. The absence of true democracy, intensified repression by Arab rulers and the natural evolution of Arab citizens towards freedom will, for better or for worse, lead to the re-emergence of political Islamists. Meanwhile, Emirati wealth will always attract Arab hustlers ready to offer illusory political promises to cash in the money.   

The UAE has generously injected substantial amounts of money into the Egyptian economy and consequently the Egyptian State has exclusively privileged Emirati enterprises with numerous business opportunities, yet the UAE has not helped Egypt with the most critical regional threat it is confronting: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi’s exaggerated fascination with UAE modernization has prompted him to duplicate many Emirati projects – building the tallest tower in Africa is one example.

The UAE’s regional foreign policy that hinges upon exploiting its wealth to confront the political Islamist threat is neither comprehensible nor viable. The Emirates, in essence, doesn’t have the capacity to be a regional political player, even given the overriding of Egypt’s waning power. Meanwhile, Al Sisi has been working to depoliticize Egypt completely, perceiving Egypt as an encumbrance rather than a resource-rich nation – a policy that has resulted in narrowing Egypt’s economic and political aspirations, limiting them to the constant seeking of financial aid from wealthy neighbors.

The regional mediating role that Egypt used to play prior to the Arab uprising has been taken over by European nations such France, Germany and Italy, in addition of course to the essential and ongoing role of the United States. Profound bureaucracy and rampant corruption will always keep Egypt from becoming a second UAE! Irrespective of which nation is in the driver’s seat, this partnership has proven to be unsuccessful. Egypt is definitely better off withdrawing from the alliance, even at the expense of forgoing Emirati financial support.

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