Netanyahu’s China Maneuver

The Israeli prime minister is sending a message to the US administration that has sidelined him.

By Ariel Kahana | | Topics: America, China
Netanyahu and Xi Jinping during a 2017 visit to China by the Israeli leader. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO
Netanyahu and Xi Jinping during a 2017 visit to China by the Israeli leader. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO

Just over a week ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the US. The red carpet was rolled out for him in what was an official state visit even though some in President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party have been highly critical of the leader of the world’s largest democracy. The progressive eye rollers believe Modi is hardly a democrat and guilty of human rights violations. Do these accusations sound familiar?

Because of this pushback against the arrival of the right-wing Indian premier, Biden had put off the visit for months, but he ultimately chose to go ahead with it, figuring it was in America’s best interests. Modi, who was elected democratically, has not joined the Western sanctions regime against Russia. He has also been moving closer to China and his country recently snatched the title of the world’s most populous country.

However noble the US is in its preaching of morals and enlightenment, considering that it is already up in arms about China and boycotting Russia, it cannot afford to lose India. Letting that happen would put America at a global disadvantage, something Biden is not able to stomach. Thus, just like he ultimately came around to embracing Saudi Arabia, he has started courting India.

We can assume that here in Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office is following this game of global chess very closely and drawing the proper conclusions. For the past seven months, Biden has been sidelining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and bolstering his political rivals in Israel. It is time to show strength or, alternatively, release a trial balloon.

In this case, a Chinese trial balloon would signal that Netanyahu has an alternative. Netanyahu is essentially telling the American president that if he wants to boast that he has gotten Israeli approval for supplying Iron Dome to Ukraine and if he wants to avoid more erosion of the US standing in the region, he should formally invite him to Washington. This is the maneuver Jerusalem has been engaged in as of late.

In late September, Netanyahu is expected to appear in the UN General Assembly, as usual. It’s hard to believe that he would visit Beijing before that, and it is no coincidence that when he announced this week that he was going to visit China, he did not specify a date.

Thus, it is likely that he is eying an arrival in China in the period after the Jewish High Holy Days, possibly during the bilateral technological meeting the two countries hold every year, which is the most plausible scenario.

Will the White House get the message? It depends on Biden and his people.

There is still a long way to go in China’s quest to become an alternative to the US. As far as Israel is concerned, there is no such viable option for the foreseeable future, and this much has been clearly communicated by Netanyahu’s office.


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One response to “Netanyahu’s China Maneuver”

  1. James says:

    Considering the very rapid pace of Xi’s diplomatic efforts to reach out to Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians, Netanyahu has every reason to visit China and confront Xi with Israel’s views on the Middle East. No one else will do that for him. Pressing Biden could be a factor as well, and maybe it influences some aspects of Bibi’s visit, but it is unlikely to be the main reason. Having a good working relationship with Xi is too valuable in and of itself.

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