BEIJING – Two days after China announced a four-point plan for Middle East
peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Chinese counterpart, Li
Keqiang, spent less than five minutes of their 90-minute meeting on Wednesday
talking about it, officials in Netanyahu’s entourage said.
bulk of their conversation dealt with Israeli-Chinese bilateral cooperation,
with a section also devoted to discussing the Iranian nuclear
More intensive discussions about the Palestinians, as well as
regional issues like Iran and Syria, are expected at Netanyahu’s meeting on
Thursday with Chinese President Li Jinping. Netanyahu and Li also arrived at an
agreement to increase the financial protocol between the two countries, which
helps underwrite long-term trade deals, to $400m.
“The meeting with the
Chinese prime minister was excellent,” Netanyahu said. “I suggested, and he
agreed, to the establishment of two teams – an Israeli one and a Chinese one –
to come up with a strategic plan for deep cooperation between Israeli companies,
experts and technology, and the Chinese government and Chinese
Netanyahu’s chief economic adviser Eugene Kandel will head up
Israel’s team, and is expected, within a few months, to recommend concrete ways
to cooperate in the sphere of water reclamation, agriculture and public
Netanyahu, who has focused primarily on business issues since
arriving in China on Monday, said this could serve as an “economic springboard”
for future generations.
“This was the main objective of my visit, and I
am happy it was achieved,” he told journalists after the meeting. “We now have
to ensure that it is implemented.”
Netanyahu said that the Chinese
government’s willingness to cut through bureaucracy and make the Chinese market
accessible to Israeli businesses is “very, very important for Israel’s economy
The Chinese government controls the country’s massive
economy, and Netanyahu is convinced that a positive wink from the government
will have a tremendous impact on the ability of Israeli firms to penetrate the
huge Chinese market.
Li welcomed Netanyahu to an overcast, sunless Beijing on Wednesday with a colorful red carpet welcome ceremony in the shadow
of the city’s massive Great Hall of the People.
The two leaders stood at
rapt attention as cannon fire punctuated an army marching band’s rendition of
“Hatikva” and the Chinese national anthem, the sound of the blasts echoing off
the signature Beijing buildings that surround Tiananmen Square.
Netanyahu met in an ornate room in the Great Hall of the People for about 90
minutes, twice the allotted time, and then Li hosted Netanyahu and his
delegation at a dinner.
Netanyahu and Li – who was appointed premier in
March and is primarily responsible for China’s economic issues – talked
throughout the welcome ceremony, and also during a ceremony where five Sino-
Israeli economic and technological agreements were signed.
Palestinian issue, according to Israeli officials, was only brought up at the
very end of the meeting by Li, he made a point during his opening remarks to
highlight it, saying he wanted to talk not only about bilateral issues, but also
“regional issues such as the question of Palestine and the Middle East peace
Netanyahu, during his opening remarks, repeated what he has
been saying for the last two days, that Israel “admires China” and feels “a
connection” to the Chinese civilization and people. He added that both are
ancient peoples with a “glorious past, a difficult in between period, and soaring
into the future.”
According to Netanyahu, Israel could be the “perfect
junior partner for China in its pursuit of economic excellence and competitive
advantage, by offering our technical capabilities.”
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