PA to strengthen China relations to prevent Israel's West Bank annexation

“We want to see China play a bigger role in the region,” a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020 (photo credit: ALAA BADARNEH/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020
The Palestinian Authority is working to strengthen relations with China as part of an effort to prevent Israel from applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
By strengthening its ties with Beijing, the PA is also seeking to stick a finger in the eye of US President Donald Trump in the wake of mounting tensions between the US and China.
“We want to see China play a bigger role in the region,” a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. “The Trump administration has disqualified itself from playing any role in the peace process [with Israel] because of its blatant bias in favor of Israel. China has always been supportive of the Palestinians.”
The PA cut its ties with the US administration after Trump’s 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sent a letter to PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki in which he stressed China’s “deep concern about the unilateral plan to annex parts of the Palestinian territories.”
China rejects the Israeli plan “because it contravenes international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Yi said. He urged Israel to avoid any unilateral move that would escalate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Yi also urged the US to “take a responsible position toward the history and long-term interests of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.”
China supports the Palestinian proposal to hold an international peace conference to pave the way for the resumption of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, he said.
One day after Yi sent his letter to Malki, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office issued a statement in support of Beijing’s stance toward Hong Kong, a former British colony handed back to China in 1997.
Last month, China’s Central People’s Government approved a “national security” bill that could be imposed on Hong Kong before September, bypassing the local legislative process. The new law is seen as a threat to fundamental political freedoms and civil liberties in Hong Kong.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China has become “more aggressive” in its efforts to spread disinformation and cause disruption across the world, from Hong Kong to the US.
“It’s a different Chinese Communist Party today than it was 10 years ago,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “This is a Chinese Communist Party that has come to view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values. It puts Americans at risk.”
In a further sign of mounting tensions between the two countries, Pompeo last week announced the US administration no longer views Hong Kong as an autonomous region of China.
The statement issued by Abbas’s office said the Palestinians support China’s right to extend its sovereignty to all its territories, including Hong Kong.
“We reaffirm our support for the right of the friendly People’s Republic of China to preserve its sovereignty, its rejection of any foreign interference in its internal affairs and attempts to destabilize it,” the statement said.
The Palestinian presidency, the statement added, “appreciates the great efforts made by China to confront the coronavirus epidemic and commends the assistance provided by China to the countries of the world, including the State of Palestine, to eradicate the epidemic that threatens all of humanity.”
Abbas also praised Chinese support for the Palestinians’ “freedom and independence on their sovereign state, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” and stressed Palestinians’ keenness to strengthen relations with China.
In April, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter to Abbas in which he stated that Beijing “attaches great importance to the development of Chinese-Palestinian relations and is ready to work with [the Palestinians] to boost cooperation [between the two sides] to achieve greater progress in all fields.”
His message came in response to a letter Abbas sent to him in which he “congratulated the President of the People’s Republic of China on the great victory that China achieved by overcoming the coronavirus crisis.”
In his letter, Abbas wrote that Xi has proven his country’s “vast capabilities in the health, administrative and technological fields, winning the admiration of the whole world.” Abbas also praised him for his “wise leadership and wisdom in managing the biggest health crisis the modern world has known.”
In another sign of improved relations between the PA and China, the head of the Office of the People’s Republic of China in Ramallah, Guo Weii, last month announced a Chinese medical team would arrive in the West Bank to help the Palestinians prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
He thanked Abbas for “standing by China at the start of the outbreak of the pandemic” and said cooperation between the two sides confirms the depth of their relations.
China also has provided a grant to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to help it overcome financial difficulties and facilitate its role in distributing medical aid and food to Palestinian refugees, Guo said.
In 2018, the Trump administration announced it was ending all funding to UNRWA, describing the agency as “irredeemably flawed.”