China not ready to tackle Mideast peace

Por • 14 may, 2013 • Sección: Internacionales
By Global Times

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, arrived in China on May 5, one days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The relationship between China and Palestine is traditionally strong. Before his visit to China, Abbas said that political issues would top his agenda, and China responded positively.

During the visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented a four-point proposal, which called for an independent Palestinian state and the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel.

Netanyahu’s trip was principally economic. He first arrived in Shanghai, China’s financial center, where he claimed that «this city represents the future of China and the world as a whole.»

Broader Middle Eastern security concerns, especially Iran’s disputed nuclear program and the worsening violence in Syria, also dominated Netanyahu’s talks with Xi and other officials. But generally, Netanyahu’s visit was mostly about business, and touched little in ending the deadlock in the peace process.

Abbas also hoped to deepen economic cooperation with China. The Palestinian Authority, which has been in financial distress, hopes to improve the economic cooperation with China.

Abbas said he would ask China «to use its relationship with Israel to remove the obstacles that obstruct the Palestinian economy.»

As the World Bank has warned, Israeli restrictions and closures, coupled with the worsening fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority, are causing «lasting damage» to the competitiveness of the Palestinian economy.

Indeed, the Palestinian Authority’s economy suffers largely due to Israel’s continued military occupation and its systematic controls which limit Palestinian capability to both export goods and to create a functioning domestic market.

The Palestinian Authority’s economy needs a fair deal with Israel. Much of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue comes from customs, border and income taxes levied on Palestinians who do business in Israel. But these taxes are being collected by Israel.

In theory, China can use economic pressure to force Israel to relax some of this strain. Whether it will do so will be driven by mostly pragmatic considerations. Beijing can control its involvement in Palestinian economy according to regional dynamics and China’s own interests.China has made efforts to forward the Israel-Palestine peace process, but has had little success. There are a large amount of issues involved in the conflict, and none of them will be resolved easily.

These deep issues range from solving the refugee problem and the future status of Jerusalem, to acute issues such as halting settlement expansion and healing the Palestinian political divide. Whether China can shoulder the heavy responsibilities and has enough strength and influence to advance the peace process is in question.

As the international community hopes for progress in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, some analysts believe that the US alone cannot push forward the Middle East peace process.

But nowadays, the US is the only party that has enough political weight to force the process forward.

It has been speculated that China’s reception of Israel and the Palestinian Authority shows a new appetite for taking on a role as a broker in that and other conflicts in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, I see China’s reception as a desire to exert more influence in the international community. And the image of being involved is important for China.

China is still not playing a leading role in the peace process of the Middle East. China and the EU prefer to influence the two sides of the conflict economically. It will need time to see whether China is willing to devote more time and political influence to solving the conflict.

This article was compiled by Global Times reporter Zhao Nan, based on an interview with Jørgen Jensehaugen, a PhD candidate at the Department of History and Classical Studies of Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Global Times | 2013-5-13 20:28:01

 http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/781248.shtml

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