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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

Justice delayed is justice denied. I lost my family to Iran Regime’s barbarity

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Mohammad Shafaei’s family- The toddler in his mother’s arm is Mohammad Shafaei

On May 4, over 1,100 families of the victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran wrote a letter to the international community. We called on the United Nations and European and American governments to take immediate action in preventing the regime from further destruction of their loved ones’ graves.

I was one of the signatories. I have lost six of my relatives to the regime’s cruelty. I was seven years old when my parents were arrested for their democratic ideals and activism.

My father, Dr. Morteza Shafaei, was a well-respected and popular physician in Isfahan. He was admired by people because he was extremely compassionate and giving to others. He was brutally executed by the regime in 1981 simply because he sought a democratic future for his family and his compatriots. The mullahs also killed my mother, two brothers, Majid (only 16) and Javad, and one of my sisters, Maryam, along with her husband.

By the age of 8, I had lost my entire family, save for one sister, as a result of the regime’s executions and crimes against humanity.

Mohammad Shafaei

The 1988 massacre stands as one of the most horrendous crimes against humanity after World War II. In the summer of that year, based on a religious decree issued by Khomeini, then-Supreme Leader of the theocratic regime in Iran, tens of thousands of political prisoners were liquidated. Most of the victims belonged to the principal democratic opposition movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

It is believed that the regime massacred at least 30,000 political dissidents that year in the span of a few months. This much was confirmed by the designated heir to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri both in his published memoires and leaked audiotape in 2016, in which he condemned the ongoing crime against humanity in August 1988 during a meeting with high-ranking regime officials.

Those officials continue to serve the regime today in high-ranking positions. Ebrahim Raisi, for example, who was a member of the “death committees” in charge of rounding up and killing the political prisoners, is currently occupying the highly sensitive post of the Judiciary Chief. He is expected to announce his candidacy to run for President during the June election. After the June 2009 uprising, he said, “Moharebeh (waging war on God) is sometimes an organization, like the hypocrites (MEK). Anyone who helps the MEK in any way and under any circumstances, because it is an organized movement, the title of Moharebeh applies.” According the Islamic Punishment Act, the punishment for Moharebeh is death.

For years, the clerical regime has been systematically and gradually destroying the graves of the victims of the 1988 massacre in Tehran and other cities. As the world learns more about the killings and the international outrage grows, Tehran’s mullahs are scrambling to clear all traces of their crimes against humanity.

Most of us have forgotten where exactly our loved ones are buried, many of them in mass graves. The campaign for justice for victims of 1988 has gained greater prominence and broader scope. International human rights organizations and experts have described the massacre as a crime against humanity and called for holding the perpetrators of this heinous crime to account.

Paranoid of the repercussions of international scrutiny into this horrific atrocity, the Iranian regime has embarked on erasing the traces of the evidence on the massacre by destroying the mass graves where they are buried. The regime has tried to destroy the mass graves of massacred political prisoners in Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery in the latest attempt. Previously, it destroyed or damaged the mass graves of the 1988 victims in Ahvaz, Tabriz, Mashhad, and elsewhere.

These actions constitute the collective torture of thousands of survivors and families of martyrs. It is another manifest case of crime against humanity.  

The UN and international human rights organizations must prevent the regime from destroying the mass graves, eliminating the evidence of their crime, and inflicting psychological torture upon thousands of families of the victims throughout Iran. 

Moreover, the Iranian public and all human rights defenders expect the United Nations, particularly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet, to launch an international commission of inquiry to investigate the massacre of political prisoners and summon the perpetrators of this heinous crime before the International Court of Justice.

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Middle East

Can Biden Bring Peace to the Middle East?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

As the fierce fighting between Israel and the Palestinians rages on, the Biden administration’s Middle East policy has been criticized for its relatively aloof, “stand back” approach that has resulted in the absence of any pressure on Israel to re-think its harsh mistreatment of the Palestinians, vividly demonstrated in the recent police attack at al-Aqsa mosque and the attempted eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, viewed by the Palestinians as part of Israel’s “ethnic cleansing.”

Consequently, a UN Security Council draft resolution on the crisis has been reportedly held up by US, which has prioritized the familiar narrative of “Israel’s right to self-defense” ad nauseam, without the benefit any nuances that would reveal any fresh thinking on the problem on the part of the Biden administration.  As in the past, the new crisis in Israel-Palestinian relations has sharpened the loyalties and alliances, in effect binding the US government closer to its Middle East ally under the rainstorm of Palestinian rocket attacks, highlighting Israel’s security vulnerabilities in today’s missile age.  Determined to crush the Palestinian resistance, the mighty Israeli army has been pulverizing Gaza while, simultaneously, declaring state of emergency in the Arab sections of Israel, as if there is a military solution to an inherently political problem.  What Israel may gain from its current military campaign is, by all indications, bound to be elusive of a perpetual peace and will likely sow the seed of the next chapter in the ‘intractable’ conflict in the future.  

Both sides are in violation of the international humanitarian laws that forbid the indiscriminate targeting of civilian population and, no matter how justified the Palestinian grievances, they too need to abide by international law and consider the alternative Gandhian path of non-violent resistance, notwithstanding the colossal power of Israeli army.

As the editors of Israel’s liberal paper, Haaretz, have rightly pointed out, the problem is the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is highly unpopular, unable to form a government, afflicted with a corruption case, and who has been appeasing the extremist elements in Israeli politics who have no qualm about the illegal expropriation of Palestinian lands.  Israeli politics for its own sake needs to move to the center, otherwise the Israeli society as a whole will suffer, as more and more educated Israelis will leave the country, Israel’s recent gains through the Abrahams accord with the conservative Arab states will be essentially wiped out, as these states will need to cater to the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiments at home or face serious legitimation problems, and Israel’s regional rivals led by Iran will continue to harvest from the present crisis.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any political will in Washington to spur a political shift in Israel that would secure better results in terms of the elusive Middle East peace and both President Biden and the Democratic Party establishment are concerned that their Republican opponents will seize on any tangible US pressure applied on Israel.  In other words, domestic US priorities will continue for the foreseeable future to hamper a much-needed corrective Washington influence on an ally that receives 4 billion dollar military aid annually and, yet, is unwilling to allow the White House to have any input on its handling of the Palestinians at home and the West Bank and Gaza.  

But, assuming for a moment that the Biden administration would somehow muster the will to stand up to Netanyahu and pressure him to cease its massive attacks on Gaza, then such a bold move would need to be coordinated with a deep Arab outreach that would, simultaneously, persuade the Palestinian groups led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to go along with a US-initiated cease-fire, followed by related efforts at UN and regional level to bring about the groundwork for a more enduring peace, such as by holding a new international peace conference, similar to the Oslo process.  

At the moment, of course, this is wishful thinking and the protagonists of both sides in this terrible conflict are more focused on scoring against each other than to partake in a meaningful peace process.  In other words, an important prerequisite for peace, that is the inclination for peaceful resolution of the conflict instead of resorting to arms, is clearly missing and can and should be brought about by, first and foremost, a capable US leadership, sadly hitherto missing.

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Middle East

Israel-Palestine Conflict Enters into Dangerous Zone

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Palestinians react as Israeli police fire a stun grenade during clashes at Damascus Gate on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 9, 2021. /Reuters

Since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, tension has escalated, with frequent clashes between police and Palestinians. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger. But when Israeli security forces entered and attacked the unarmed Muslim worshipers, damaged the property, and humiliated the families, the situation turned into conflict.

Since the irrational and illogical creation of the Jewish State in the middle of the Muslim World, the tension started and emerged into few full-fledged armed conflicts and wars like; 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006 wars/ conflicts. Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank complain that they’re suffering because of Zionists’ expansionist actions. Israel’s severe violations of human rights and extreme atrocities against Palestinians left Palestinians with no option other than protest and agitate. But Israel suppresses them and uses all dirty tricks to keep them silent.

It is worth mentioning that the United Nations Security Council has passed several resolutions to settle the Israel-Palestine issue peacefully. But Israel has not implemented either of them and kept using force to push them out and settle Jews in their land.

The State of Israel has been enjoying undue supported by the US, irrespective of who is president, but all of them support Israel unconditionally. Israel is the most favored nation of the US and the largest beneficiary of American aid, assistance, and support.

Ex-President Donald Trump helped Israel establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Donald Trump favored Netanyahu, dramatically moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His daughter and son-in-law were the facilitators for his support to Israel.

Till last news, at least 56 Palestinians have died under an array of aerial bombardments of the Gaza Strip. Five Israelis were killed too. Rockets, bullets, and rocks are flying around Israel and the Palestinian territories with catastrophic intensity in the latest wave of violence that periodically marks the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces amid clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in 1967 Six-Day War.  Security forces have set on fire the centuries-old holy Mosque. Serious communal violence has broken out within Israel between Arab citizens and Jews. Fires were lit, a synagogue burned, a Muslim cemetery trashed, police cars set aflame, and an Arab-Israeli man killed. The mayor of Lod termed it a “civil war.”

The ferocity of the fast-escalating conflict might be extremely dangerous as Israel uses hi-tech, advanced, lethal weapons. A week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed close to losing power after the climax of four inconclusive elections. The outbreak of hostilities has allowed him the opportunity to make his latest appearance as a tough guy and ended coalition talks by rival politicians. He might politicize the conflict in his favor.

There is a severe danger of spreading this conflict to a large-scale war, which might engulf the regional countries. There already exists tension among Israel and few regional powers. The recent Israeli attacks on Russian bases in Syrian may also widen the conflict.

Any war in the middle-East will have dire consequences globally. It is appealed to the UN and all peace-loving nations and individuals to speed up all-out efforts to stop the conflict at this initial stage and avert further bloodshed. It is demanded that the Israel-Palestine issue must be settled according to the resolutions passed by UNSC. Wish immediate peace, sustainable peace, and permanent peace in the Middle East and globally.

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