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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

China-Israel Relations Worsening


Relations between Israel and China are deteriorating as a result of China's strengthening ties to Israel's enemies--Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

An accidental Israeli killing of a Chinese United Nations peacekeeper during this summer's Lebanese war did not help matters; neither did a Chinese-designed Iranian missile striking an Israeli Navy ship; and many Israelis are less than happy about China's decision to send up to 1,000 troops to the expanded UN peacekeeping force.

To make matters worse, from a Chinese viewpoint, five Israeli lawmakers recently met with Taiwanese officials--in Taiwan. Israel's envoy to the self-ruled island and a local rabbi also attended the meeting.

China lodged an angry complaint with Jerusalem after learning about the meeting. China's Ambassador to Israel, Chen Yonglong, pictured above, called for an urgent meeting with the head of the Union for Sino-Israel relations, during which he expressed his government's fury over the incident.

Israel's Ynetnews.com reported that Knesset members from the Shas, National Union and Kadima parties traveled to Taiwan for the meeting.

The website quoted Yonglong as saying that if such an incident "happens again, that matter will be viewed as critical."

Diplomatic sources tell China Confidential that Yonglong is angry about the Israeli article because it inaccurately referred to Taiwan "sovereignty." The self-ruled island enjoys de facto independence and is recognized as a state by 24 countries. But it has held back from moving toward formal independence, which would almost certainly result in war with the mainland.

China recently adopted an "Anti-Secession Law" that authorizes use of force against the island if it moves toward declaring formal independence, or, ominously, if peaceful reunification efforts fail.

China has some 800 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is adding 100 or more each year.

After suffering from Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel, many Israelis and Diaspora Jews are said to be increasingly sympathetic to Taiwan's plight. Chinese threats to erase Taiwan resonate.

Israel has been a major supplier of military technology and weapons to China; but Arab and Iranian oil supplies are nowadays more important to Chinese policymakers than Israeli arms.

On Wednesday, the Jerusalem-based blog Israel matzav published an insightful analysis of the Chinese uproar over the Taiwan visit.

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