TAIPEI (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a meeting with U.S. lawmakers in Jerusalem that he will soon make a diplomatic visit to China, stressing that he notified the Biden administration of the invitation from Beijing a month ago.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed to the members of Congress that the security and intelligence cooperation between the US and Israel is at an all-time peak, and emphasized that the US will always be Israel’s most vital ally and irreplaceable ally,” Netanyahu’s office wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s announcement comes at a sensitive time in both U.S.-China and U.S.-Israel relations. Just over a week ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing to ease tensions, and President Joe Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” at a fundraising event.
Biden also said in March that Netanyahu would not be invited to visit the United States “in the near term” as the Israeli leader continues to push legislation that would overhaul the Jewish state’s judiciary. President Isaac Herzog has plans to visit the White House next month.
“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. And I’m concerned that they get this straight,” Biden said to reporters at the time about the proposed Israeli judicial reforms.
China has looked to expand its influence in the Middle East in recent years and also expressed its desire to act as a global peacemaker in conflicts such as the Ukraine war or between Israel and the Palestinians. China helped broker a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March.
According to a Times of Israel report, Netanyahu could work with China to improve Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Israel wants the country to join the Abraham Accords framework, which established peaceful relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also recently visited China, and Xi presented an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan involving a two-state solution based on 1967 borders.
Israel has taken an increasingly cautious approach with China in recent years at the behest of the United States, particularly on investments and infrastructure projects. While Chinese investment in Israel has dropped, China has remained one of Israel’s top trading partners. Bilateral trade continues to grow between the two countries, and 2022 was a record year involving $17.62 billion, up from $15.02 billion the year before.
The trip will be Netanyahu’s fourth diplomatic trip to China. No potential dates for the visit were provided. PJC