Despite tension in north, PM flies to China

Netanyahu leaves after brief delay for security cabinet meeting; China talks to include topics of Iran and Syria.

Netanyahu with military aide 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
The 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 situation.
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 trip.
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 slighted.
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 economic issues.
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 interviews.
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.