Advancing Israel’s interests through dialogue with the Chinese military

Former UN ambassador Dore Gold accents Israel’s need to defend itself in a recent visit to China.

China israel 521 (photo credit: Central Party School)
China israel 521
(photo credit: Central Party School)
‘So who are you with? Are you with the United States, or are you with China?” a Chinese military officer bluntly asked Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dore Gold during his visit to Beijing last month.
Unfazed, Gold responded, “We are allied with the United States. But at the same time, international relations isn’t like marriage. You have to have multiple friends, so we’re here to hear your concerns, and we want you to hear our concerns.”
Given tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over Palestinian peace talks and the Iranian file, the stability of Israeli-US relations has become a popular question in recent weeks.
Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN and a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, does not think Israeli-US relations are in jeopardy. However, he does acknowledge the need for Israel to develop strong ties with other nations.
“Every country should have diverse relationships, without belittling in any way our strategic alliance with the United States,” he says.
In his view, from every country with which Israel forges alliances, there is something different to gain. “The French are experts in North Africa, and al-Qaida is a new rising force there. So we should talk to France about al-Qaida in North Africa and the US about al-Qaida in Iraq.
Everyone has their specialization.”
Reaching out to untapped countries to explain Israel’s security concerns was the primary motivation behind his five-day mission to the People’s Republic late last month, where he met with high-level Chinese military officials to explain Israel’s need for defensible borders and the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Gold, accompanied by former IDF chief of staff and former national security adviser Uzi Dayan, met with Chinese generals and Middle East experts (such as former Chinese ambassador to Iran Hua Liming) to discuss these pressing issues.
A highlight of Gold’s jam-packed trip – coordinated by Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership head Carice Witte – was his visit to the prestigious Central Party School. The CPS is known as the “supreme ideological training ground for party cadres and a prerequisite for any official interested in joining the elite political ranks of China’s ruling class,” according to a feature on the school that Foreign Policy published last year. Alumni of the school include current Chinese President Xi Jinping, his predecessor Hu Jinato, and former vice president Xeng Qinghong.
“I don’t know if it’s comparable to any other system,” Gold states.
“Maybe Sayeret Matkal,” he adds, referring to the IDF’s elite reconnaissance unit.
Despite the students’ vast background on defense issues, he found that most members of the audience were unaware of the reasoning behind Israel’s vehement opposition to a nuclear Iran and returning to pre-1967 borders.
“They’d never heard, as far as I know, a very critical presentation of the Iranian policy. They viewed a lot of Iranian actions as rhetoric, and had a much kinder view of Iran that we thought we had to correct,” he says.
During his presentation at the school, he emphasized Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah and explained why such a relationship posed an immediate threat to Israel. He also provided photos of messages such as “Israel must be wiped off the map,” and “Israel must be destroyed” emblazoned on Iranian Shahab- 3 ballistic missiles.
As for defensible borders, Gold discussed why returning to the pre-1967 lines was not a viable option for peace in Israel’s view. Referencing the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, he referred to the incessant smuggling of arms along the Philadelphi Corridor in Gaza as an example of why withdrawing from the West Bank would significantly threaten Israel’s security.
“You can analyze the number of rocket launches in 2005, when we were still in Gaza, compared to when we left, and you see the figures increased by 500 percent,” he says. “We made that case to them and explained what would happen if you had a Philadelphi Corridor in the West Bank, and that would be the Jordan Valley.”
In addition to the PowerPoint presentation and diagrams, he provided the students with a booklet – in Chinese – highlighting all of his points.
His mission to Beijing came after Netanyahu’s state visit earlier this year, which aimed at expanding business ties with China, and a subsequent visit by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
When Netanyahu traveled to China and met with the country’s president, at the beginning of their meeting, Xi publicly stated, “I am ready to exchange views with you on how to strengthen our bilateral relationship, how to enhance our bilateral cooperation, and also on regional issues – such as the question of Palestine, and the Middle East peace process.”
It seems, then, that China’s decades- long history of non-intervention is subtly changing.
“I think that my own reading is that China would prefer that there be a superpower like the United States that would stabilize the Middle East, and they are not really at a point where they are planning to militarily intervene in this region,” Gold responds cautiously when asked if he thinks we are witnessing a gradual shift in Chinese foreign policy.
“We know that China is interested in other technological innovations in agriculture, medicine, but I had never witnessed, before this, Chinese interest in talking about political/diplomatic sides of the Middle East,” he adds.
Asked if he thinks he was able to persuade members of his audience during his visit, he responds, “I think it’s too early to say. But when you go to the desert and carry a bucket of water, it’s gotta do something.”