Washington is attempting to pressure Tel Aviv into pulling back on its ties and trade with China, according to a report in Voice of America. After the European Union and the United States, the People’s Republic is Israel’s largest trade partner.
The report discusses some developments regarding a series of joint Israeli-Chinese infrastructure projects in Israel, including a recently augmented Chinese operated shipping port in the city of Haifa. Chinese companies were also building parts of the Tel Aviv light rail system until Washington leaned on Tel Aviv to instead favor Israeli and European firms.
Hebrew University’s Yuri Pines told VOA that “China [now] has the best infrastructure in the world. China is able to export its knowledge, its know-how, its engineers, its workers, and Israel has benefited enormously.” Though, the US has pressed Israel over the relationship and Tel Aviv is reportedly curtailing some of its economic agreements with China.
Biden has escalated America’s economic war against Beijing, including by imposing harsh sanctions and attempting to cripple the Chinese semiconductor industry. At the same time, this White House has expanded the Pentagon’s vast military buildup in the Asia-Pacific, eyeing a future war between the world’s two largest economies.
Gedaliah Afterman of Reichman University says “there is growing pressure from the United States on Israel to limit its engagement with China, specifically on infrastructure and technology. And that pressure is starting to yield results.”
Beijing recently pulled off an unprecedented diplomatic feat when it brokered a normalization deal between Riyadh and Tehran. The agreement saw a full restoration of diplomatic ties between the two longtime rivals, as well as plans to expand bilateral cooperation and trade in the future.
Business between China and the Arab world is hitting all-time highs, with the total volume of trade reaching a record $430 billion last year. Saudi Arabia accounts for 25% of that massive figure, with a bilateral trade volume of $106 billion.
Over the weekend, Riyadh and Beijing signed $10 billion worth of deals spanning electric vehicles, renewable energy, agriculture, real estate, technology, metals, healthcare and tourism. Additionally, China has inked a 25-year strategic and economic partnership with Iran worth $400 billion.
According to Al Jazeera, “The [Saudi] kingdom’s officials have said more announcements can be expected, with Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud saying more energy deals would be forthcoming. He also brushed off Western criticism of growing Saudi ties with China, saying the kingdom would prioritize its business interests.”
Pines explained to Voice of America that there has been a shift in the thinking of some Israeli analysts who see China, a significant partner of Iran as well as the Palestinians, as largely benefiting the region with its actions. “It is so rare to have in the Middle East a major country which is really neutral, which It is not engaged in… it’s neither pro-Israeli, nor pro-Iranian, nor pro-Saudi, nor pro-Egyptian. It is just a neutral country interested in economic ties with all parts of this very complicated Middle East equation,” he said. The academic added that Beijing may be the only country in the world capable of brokering a peace deal between Israel and Iran.
China has also voiced interest in playing a positive role in facilitating talks between the Israelis and the occupied Palestinians, and has appointed a special envoy to meet with officials from both sides.
The US may be catching on that China is making gains in the Middle East as the appetite for war in the region abates. Last week, Middle East Eye reported the White House is holding secret direct talks with Iran.
Negotiators are said to be working toward an interim deal which would allow Iran to partially resume oil exports and receive limited sanctions relief in exchange for not enriching uranium beyond 60% purity.
Surprisingly, according to Israel’s Channel 13, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has regularly threatened to attack the Islamic Republic – told the Knesset this week that Tel Aviv “could live with” this potential “mini-agreement” between Tehran and Washington.