First Published: 2017-03-20

Netanyahu in China amid Israel election speculation
Israeli economic mission to Beijing has largely been overshadowed by recent dispute between prime minister, key coalition partner.
Middle East Online

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

BEIJING - Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met his Chinese counterpart Monday and called for efforts to promote global stability, amid political turmoil back home.

There is a "great deal of convulsion in the world", Netanyahu told Li Keqiang before their meeting, urging the two countries to advance "security, peace, stability and prosperity".

The meeting was part of a three-day trip by the Israeli leader marking 25 years of diplomatic relations. He is expected to meet President Xi Jinping Tuesday.

Netanyahu was accompanied by 90 businesspeople -- the largest Israeli business delegation ever to visit China, according to Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

They met executives from some of China's largest corporations including Internet giants Baidu and Alibaba, said a statement from the Israeli prime minister's office.

But the economic mission has largely been overshadowed by a dispute that erupted between the prime minister and a key coalition partner just before his arrival in China.

Netanyahu announced on Israeli public radio Sunday that he would be abandoning an agreement with Moshe Kahlon, the finance minister, to form a new public broadcasting authority to supplant the current one.

Local media reports said Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers he would dissolve the coalition government led by his Likud party if Kahlon does not comply -- a threat that some are calling an attempt to delay his possible indictment.

The prime minister has denied wrongdoing in two corruption investigations that are expected to be concluded in the coming weeks.

Trade between China and Israel has flourished since diplomatic ties were established in 1992.

China's total investment in Israel exceeds six billion dollars, and Israeli-designed technologies are used across the world's second largest economy.

The two countries began free trade negotiations last year.

Israel has largely focused its relationship with China on economics to avoid straining its strategic ties with the United States, analysts said.

"Their common interests are business, the Silk Road initiative and scientific innovation," Pan Guang, the dean of Shanghai's Center for Jewish Studies, told AFP.

"Both sides know their differences on the Middle East peace process, and they don't want to emphasise those differences."

In a speech to the Arab League in January 2016, Xi expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, noting that China "understands the legitimate aspirations of Palestine to integrate into the international community".

 

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