On the eve of the restarting of talks between Iran and world powers on Thursday,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized Wednesday to visiting Chinese
Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Iran must be denied the capability to develop
“We believe that for the peace of the world, for the
peace of the coming years and decades, Iran must be denied the capability – I
stress the word – the capability to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said
before their two-hour meeting.
China, along with the US, Russia, France,
Germany and Britain, is one of the P5+1 countries negotiating with Iran. Israeli
sources said that Beijing generally follows Moscow’s lead in these
Despite widespread skepticism in the West that Netanyahu’s demands
of Iran are attainable, he reiterated them again to Wang, saying Iran must end
all uranium enrichment, dismantle its centrifuges, eliminate the stockpiles of
enriched uranium, and dismantle its heavy water reactor in Arak so that it will
be unable to produce plutonium.
“I think that this is something that the
international community in its entirety must stand firm on,” he
Wang did not mention Iran in his brief remarks.
foreign minister, who took over the position earlier this year, arrived in
Israel late Tuesday evening for his first ever visit to the country. He is
likely to hear similar sentiments about Iran when he visits Saudi Arabia at the
tail end of his Middle East regional trip, which will also take him to Morocco
and Algeria. He is the first Chinese foreign minister, and the highest ranking
Chinese official, to visit Israel since 2009.
Wang went to Bethlehem and
Ramallah Wednesday morning, where he met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas. PA officials said Abbas reiterated his commitment to achieving peace through negotiations.
Abbas also emphasized his commitment to pursuing
the peace talks with Israel until the end of the nine-month timetable set by US
Secretary of State John Kerry, the official said.
While China has not
historically taken much of a role in the conflict, in recent months it has
signaled an interest to be more involved. Just prior to Netanyahu’s visit to
China in May, the Chinese – during a visit by Abbas – published a four point
peace plan that called for a two-state solution, the end of violence, the
halting of settlement construction and the immediate renewal of
Over the last few years one assumption in Jerusalem
regarding the world scene was that Russia and China had reached a certain modus
vivendi: China would stay out of the Middle East and follow Russia’s lead on
matters there, and Russia would follow China’s lead on issues in the Far East,
particularly when regarding North Korea.
But as China’s economic clout is
growing, Beijing – according to analysts in Israel – is interested in becoming a
player in the Middle East in its own right, partly to create a point of leverage
with the United States.
According to this thinking, just as the US has
traditionally gotten Beijing’s attention by being involved with Taiwan, so China
can get Washington’s attention by moving into an area that for so long has been
US-led and dominated.
The structure of Wang’s visit shows, however, that
Beijing is very much in the listenand- learn mode. In addition to meeting
Netanyahu on Wednesday, and scheduled meetings with President Shimon Peres and
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday, the Chinese Embassy has also
organized a symposium where Palestinian and Israeli academics will discuss the
Middle East and a potential role China could play.
would not say whether, and in what context, the Bank of China case – and
Beijing’s pressure on Israel to block former agent Uzi Shaya from testifying
against it in a major terror-financing lawsuit in the US – would come up in the
Wang stressed in his brief remarks with Netanyahu that he has come
“to pursue stronger cooperation between our two countries. Our two economies are
highly complementary, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between us enjoys
a very bright future.”
The Chinese foreign minister expanded on this
theme later in the evening at a dinner in his honor hosted by the Chinese
Embassy and various organizations dedicated to fostering Sino-Israeli
“If we use the Jewish brain and the Chinese motor, the car that we
will build together will take off with great speed,” he said. Wang stressed the
ancient roots of both the Jewish and Chinese people, and said he is a fervent
supporter in promoting the relationship.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is coming
under both American and European pressure not to announce more building in the
settlements following what is expected to be another batch of Palestinian
terrorists to be released at the end of the month.
Under the framework
reached in July that enabled a re-start of Israeli-Palestinian talks, Israel is
to release 104 Palestinian prisoners during the nine-months of
The release of the first two groups was accompanied by
announcements of new plans for settlement constructions, most – but not all – in
Jerusalem or the major settlement blocks.
Netanyahu is being told that an
additional announcement of more settlement construction could endanger the
continuation of the talks.
The prime minister, speaking Wednesday evening
at a Likud convention, said that Israel does not “stop for a minute” building on
“There are attempts to pressure us,” Netanyahu said. “The US
conducts the talks in a good spirit, but there are those who try to pressure us.
It’s not easy to withstand pressure, but we do. They pound on the table and
don’t stop trying to persuade in various international forums. On fateful
issues, we don’t compromise and the world understands. My goal is to
guarantee the future of the Jewish people in its land.”
Khaled Abu Toameh
contributed to this report.