Gov't approves Vilna'i as next ambassador to China

Homeland defense minister says in new role he will work to improve strategic, defense and economic ties with Beijing.

Matan Vilnai 311 (photo credit: Yaakov Katz)
Matan Vilnai 311
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz)
The government approved the appointment of Homeland Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i (Independence) to serve as the next ambassador to China on Sunday.
In response, Vilna'i stated that "after five intensive years of working to prepare the Israeli homefront, I am moving to the next task - the strengthening of strategic, defense and economic ties with China, which is one of the most important countries in the world."
Vilna'i, who will be replaced in the Knesset by former MK Shakib Shanan, added: "We are at a very dramatic stage for Israel's security, and China could be one of the foundations of our success."
A spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said of the appointment that the government attaches "great importance to strengthening economic cooperation with China."
Last week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a statement explaining that he chose Vilna’i for this post because China was an important country with which Israel was interested in establishing closer ties, and that it was suitable that Israel be represented there by someone “at the highest level.”
“I am convinced that Vilna’i, who served as a government minister and was a senior IDF officer, will fill this position in the best way possible and will put an emphasis on developing the relations between the two countries,” Liberman said.
Vilna’i will be the second ambassador to China coming directly from around the cabinet table: Ora Namir, who was minister of labor and social welfare, left that post to become ambassador to China in 1996.
Vilnai’s appointment received mixed reviews inside the Foreign Ministry, where political appointments for such highly sought-after positions – rather than taking some from inside the ranks of the ministry – are generally frowned upon.
While one official said that Vilna’i would be able to push through projects with China by virtue of the fact that he is so close to the country’s leading decision-makers, another said that he did not have a track record in diplomacy or any particular understanding of China to make him suitable for the post.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.