​China's mediation efforts in Palestine-Israel conflict

By George N. Tzogopoulos
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 23, 2021
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Palestinians inspect a destroyed house after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on May 19, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Palestine-Israel conflict is multifaceted but revolves around the diachronic inability of Israelis and Palestinians to reach a compromise. In theory, an ideal compromise would guarantee Israel's security and the creation of a Palestinian state. However, a land for peace agreement has proven to be difficult to negotiate because it does not necessarily alleviate the tendency of both sides to enact policies, tactics, claims and demands that constantly drive them apart. Even the post-Cold War aura did not make any difference and mediation efforts by U.S. President Bill Clinton collapsed in 2000. 

In the 21st century, the Israel-Palestine conflict has witnessed periods of relative calmness punctuated by heightened tensions. The drama was exacerbated when Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. As opposed to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that controls the West Bank and recognizes Israel's right to exist, Hamas does not. The latter has engaged in terror activities and rockets' launch against Israel. The Israeli government, for its part, has orchestrated massive scale military operations to neutralize Hamas in accordance with its security policy.

The inalienable right of Israel to exist and prevent threats against its citizens often unfolds into a situation where force is used disproportionally and extra pain is added to the suffering of Palestinian people. The continuation of Israeli settlements is sore point for Palestinians. These settlements are generally criticized by the international community, even sometimes by the United States, but were not under the Trump administration. 

As the president of the UN Security Council for May, China needs to manage this most recent Israel-Palestinian crisis that has been evolving for some days. The Chinese government has endeavored to contribute to de-escalation by proposing a ceasefire, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and holistic international support through the UN – including from the United States – to move forward with the two-state solution. Further to this, it is willing to invite Israelis and Palestinians for talks in Beijing. The idea was first announced by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his Middle East tour at the end of March. 

The position of China is adamant and firm. While it endorses the Palestinian cause, it respects Israel and wants to facilitate a potential symbiosis. In 2013, China made a four-point proposal, which stipulates, among other things, for the creation of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. China's Arab Policy Paper of 2016 also makes reference to these terms. In 2019, Beijing took concrete steps when it decided to appoint senior diplomat Zhai Jun as its special envoy in the region. 

The more China grows, the more expectations about its international responsibilities increase. Of course, such long-standing problems, that require concessions from the related sides, cannot be solved very soon, but what China can do is to use its leverage to implement UN Resolutions and galvanize support for the Palestinian people as much as possible. In this spirit, it has donated vaccines to aid Palestine's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This will hopefully result in a better balance between the impressive vaccination rhythm of Israel and that of Palestine, which lags behind. 

China's mediation differs from that of the United States. China does not take sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and works in order to make conditions for negotiations conducive. A stable geopolitical environment matters in the Middle East, but when attempting to create or preserve such an environment China will not adopt policies that are risky, or go too far. The historical experience exposes the limits of optimism for breakthroughs. 

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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