Netanyahu with Chinese President Xi Jinping 370.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
BEIJING – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s discussions in China shifted from
the purely economic to the Middle East on Thursday, as he told China’s President
Xi Jinping that a nuclear Iran would threaten the free flow of oil through the
Netanyahu chose to stress that particular danger during
his meeting with Xi because of the degree to which the energy-thirsty Chinese
economy is dependent on oil that travels through the narrow straits. According
to an official in the prime minister’s entourage, Netanyahu told Xi that in the
current struggles taking place in the Middle East, China – like Israel – has an
interest that the “more moderate, non-fanatical” side should win.
Netanyahu said, tilts the balance to the other side, and does not only endanger
regional peace and security, but also the oil flow. He said that if the Islamic
Republic without nuclear arms was willing to support terrorism and back the
overthrow of governing regimes, then one could only imagine what they would do
with a nuclear umbrella. There is only one thing the Iranians have not yet done,
he said, and that is block the flow of oil through the Hormuz Straits. According
to this logic, such a move would be more likely if Iran acquired nuclear weapons
because it would be less prone to retaliation.
Netanyahu met Xi – who is
shaping Chinese foreign policy by taking a more assertive role in world affairs
– at the Great Hall of the People. In addition to Iran, the diplomatic process
with the Palestinians was discussed, including a four-point peace proposal
announced following a meeting on Monday with visiting Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas.
Officials in Netanyahu’s entourage said there
were positive elements in the plan for Israel, such as the statement that “the
existence of Israel and its legitimate security concerns should be fully
In the past those words were not an integral part of the
Chinese lexicon on the Middle East. The plan calls for a two-state solution, the
end of violence, the halting of settlement construction and the immediate
renewal of negotiations.
Netanyahu’s meeting with Xi capped a four-day
span during which the prime minister spoke with arguably the three most powerful
men on the planet: Xi, United States President Barack Obama, who he spoke by
phone on Tuesday and Russian President Vladimir Putin – their conversation took
place on Monday.
Netanyahu said he and Obama discussed Syria, other
regional issues and the ongoing efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to
restart the negotiations with the Palestinians.
“There is an
understanding that we are concerned about the security and stability of Israel,
and the region surrounding it,” Netanyahu, – referring to his conversation with
Obama – told reporters at the outset of a brief tour of the Great Wall outside
Beijing, Thursday morning, with his wife and sons.
Looking out at the
meandering wall that was built to protect ancient China, Netanyahu said “I am
working to create security for Israel and its future, and that is what I have
done in recent days in conversations with Chinese leaders, with my conversation
with the US president overnight, and with the Russian
Netanyahu is scheduled to return to Israel Friday
Regarding other issues on the agenda, Netanyahu reiterated
Thursday that Finance Minister Yair Lapid had his full backing
in passing the
budget. The budget is expected to be discussed at a cabinet meeting scheduled
Netanyahu has not spoken with Lapid since he arrived in China
on Monday, and has said recently in private meetings that he believes prime
ministers should not interfere in the budget.
In another economic matter,
officials in the prime minister’s entourage said he was expected to name a new
governor of the Bank of Israel by the end of June.
official added, has already talked to a number of people about the position.