Netanyahu with military aide 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set off for his five-day trip to China Sunday
evening, despite the heightened tension following reports that Israel carried
out attacks against Syria on Sunday.
Netanyahu went to the airport
directly from a security cabinet meeting called urgently to discuss the
developments in Syria. The meeting, which lasted three hours, delayed his
departure by two hours.
Netanyahu is due back on Friday.
developments in Syria have placed Netanyahu in a tricky situation regarding the
trip. If he postponed the trip, it would send a message to Syria and Hezbollah
of a possible ratcheting up of Israeli action.
However, if he goes ahead
with the visit – and there is a harsh response from the north – it will take him
a number of hours to return to the country and take charge of the
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will serve as acting prime
minister in Netanyahu’s absence, and Netanyahu will be in constant contact with
Jerusalem – including during the flight to Shanghai, his first stop on the
Another consideration regarding whether to go ahead with the visit
is that Netanyahu postponed two previous trips to China, including one in
November 2010 that was canceled at the last minute, irking the Chinese, who felt
The situation in Syria is now expected to be a key part of
Netanyahu’s discussion with the Chinese leadership.
Beijing has been one
of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s key backers in the international community,
and supported Moscow in quashing a number of UN Security Council resolutions
meant to end the conflict.
China is fervently opposed to international
involvement in solving “domestic” issues.
Despite the tense situation
with Syria, Netanyahu’s first day in China – in Shanghai – will be devoted to
He is scheduled to visit a hi-tech park, meet Israeli
businessmen active in China and meet with the leadership of Shanghai, the
country’s economic capital.
On Tuesday he is scheduled to tour Shanghai’s
historic Jewish quarter, meet the city’s mayor, tour a factory and grant
He will travel to Beijing Wednesday, where his political
talks with China’s leaders will begin.
Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas will also be visiting China while Netanyahu is in the country.
Abbas was expected to land in Beijing on Sunday.