• Wed
  • Nov 19, 2014
  • Updated: 7:43am

No easy fix in Gaza, Israeli ambassador tells China

Ambassador says that hopes of Beijing brokering a truce are too optimistic

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 2:36am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 2:40am

It would be difficult for China to mediate in the Gaza conflict even though Beijing enjoys good relationships with both Israel and the Arab world, the Israeli ambassador to China has told the South China Morning Post.

Matan Vilnai said China could play a balancing role but warned that conflict in Gaza would be "very complicated" for Beijing to solve. He made the comment after Beijing made suggestions for peace and called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

"I know your leaders. They are very smart people, and they understand that dealing with the Middle East is very dangerous," Vilnai said. "It is very complicated, and I am not sure that China is prepared to do it, because it is not easy and there is not a simple way to do it."

He said not even the United States could bring the conflict to an end, despite it having been in a strong position in the Middle East for decades. "You must be part of the Middle East in order to do it," he said.

The six weeks of fighting have killed at least 2,038 Palestinians in Gaza, about three-quarters of them civilians. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers. Egypt has scrambled to secure a ceasefire deal over the past weeks, but fighting resumed on Tuesday.

Beijing has been making an effort, albeit a marginal one, to help end the conflict.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in Cairo on August 3, calling on the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop pursuing their "unilateral demands by using force" and to establish a security mechanism. China has pledged US$1.5 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Gaza.

China's special envoy on Middle East affairs, Wu Sike, toured the region last month to call on both sides to settle the conflicts through talks.

The Palestinian ambassador to China, Ahmed Ramadan, said last month that Beijing should play a more important role in the Middle East peace process as China had both economic and political influence in the region.

Vilnai, however, said China had to tread carefully as Beijing needed to protect its interests in the resource-rich region and maintain good relations with Israel, which has become an increasingly important trade partner for China.

China is now Israel's second- largest trading partner, with exports of US$2.88 billion and imports of US$7.99 billion last year. Chinese companies are eyeing several high-profile investment deals in Israel.

These include tendering for construction of a railway linking Eilat on the Red Sea and Ashdod on the Mediterranean, and purchasing a more than US$1 billion controlling stake in Tnuva, Israel's dairy giant.

"You must be very careful trying to deal with the Middle East," Vilnai said.

"And to understand the situation … will take years."

Vilnai also hit back at critics who claimed Israel had targeted Palestinian civilians in its strikes on Gaza.

He blamed Hamas for using civilians as human shields, adding that Hamas must "recognise the right of Israel to exist" before a ceasefire deal could be brokered.

Hamas fighters were radical militants who were no different to the fighters of Islamic State, he said.


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Clarification for zvichadashote -- the Jewish People is to the Holy Land as the Iroquois are to New York State. Of all extant Peoples, the Jewish People has the strongest claim to be "the" aboriginal People there. Around the 6th century BCE, a population there first self-identified as the specifically "Jewish" People, used the Hebrew language and practiced Judaism. Most modern Jews do have some special genetic connection to their ancient ancestors. They are also today part of the long-time "Jewish" People, which has culturally/sociologically persisted (in both Palestine and beyond) under that very same name for around 26 centuries. By contrast, no population commonly self-identified as the specifically "Palestinian" People before 1967 CE. This self-identified "Palestinian" People is also indigenous there because it was first born there in the land, post 1967 CE. But the fact that the newborn "Palestinian" People is also indigenous does not detract from the historical reality that the Jewish People is both aboriginal and indigenous there. Nor do Palestinians improve their standing relative to Jews by calling themselves "Muslims" or "Arabs." Thus, there can be no question of applying the 20th-century concept of "decolonization" against Jews living in the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish People. Between the Jordan River and the Sea, there is currently a bitter dispute over all of the land. However, the dilemma there has absolutely nothing to do with colonialism by Jews.
Reply to partridge -- there is now a dispute over all the land from the Jordan River to the Sea. But, I reject the word "colonialism" in connection with Israel. This is a initial question which goes to the heart of the issue. The Jewish presence there is not colonial! A then self-identified, specifically "Jewish" People was born there around the 6th century BCE. From that time until today, then self-identified "Jews" have always lived in the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish People, where significantly today Jews are now no longer the minority. Whether 1000 years ago or today, Jews returning there to live with other Jews are not to be compared to the 17th-century "Pilgrim Fathers" who went to build English "settlements" in America where they had neither native kin nor ancestors. Nor can the Jewish People in its own aboriginal homeland be compared to the Dutch "Boers" in South Africa or to the French "colons" in Algeria. From 1917 to 1924, a series of declarations, resolutions and treaties explicitly recognized the Jewish People's "'historical connection to Palestine" and created "a national home for the Jewish People," from the Jordan River to the Sea. Added to such Jewish aboriginal and treaty rights, the Jewish People today also enjoys self-determination rights where territory there is now inhabited mostly by Jews. Post 1967, there has emerged a newly self-identified "Palestinian" People which now also has self-determination rights, but lacks aboriginal and treaty rights.
According to Terry Ng: "The six weeks of fighting have killed at least 2,038 Palestinians in Gaza, about three-quarters of them civilians." With regard to current deaths in Gaza, how can Terry Ng so confidently distinguish between "civilians" and Hamas fighters who do not wear military uniforms? My point is that both the number and the classification of those recently killed in Gaza remain very much a matter of keen dispute, as any competent journalist should acknowledge. In "the fog of war," there are commonly all sorts of claims which later turn out to be inaccurate. Exaggerated claims of civilian deaths were also produced during the previous two rounds of fighting in Gaza.
You are absolutely right, Israeli's will always promote their interest including killing American's if necessary to move their cause.
Allenz, your knowledge of history is distorted and selective as any other Jew/Israeli supporters. Support Israel no matter what injustice they do to others or history as long as it serves Zionist ideology and supreme race of God's chosen people. Any things other than that one must be a anti Semite if you are critical of Israel. You need to learn history that is balance and true not imbalance and seriously tainted to justify. The world knows the truth and that's why Israel is so hated around the world. So unfortunate.
Allenz, this false history lesson is good for American's that does not know the truth, ask any European they will tell you better that your 2 weeks Israel first re-written history knowledge. It is funny all those paid Israeli supporters go around the world newspaper to propagate false information because if you keep listening a lie for so long you will believe it to be true. Just google history of Palestine you will see it is other wise how a genocide has been committed on Palestine by the same Jews people people was a victim in Europe.
Lies are short lived and that's why over 60 years of land grab, genocide, murder, occupation of Palestine took Israel no where but a state of bully and the only country that violets every laws of the UN. Hope Israel will learn to live with the rest of the world in peace and it will not happen until they stop stealing the host country Palestine's land and murdering their people.
"The six weeks of fighting have killed at least 2,038 Palestinians in Gaza . . ."
Until 50,000 - 100,000 Hamas supporters have been killed in the fighting, the war will never end.
Wars are fought until one side wins and the other side loses. Ceasefires only prolong the fighting.
I Gandhi
The Jews and Arabs don't want peace as nobody can share the same piece of land.
The ambassador here is being extremely self-serving of what he regards as Israeli interests; actually, China could serve a strong role, along with the other great powers, in shutting down the Israeli government's colonialism and in establishing a fair two-state system in the Middle East. It isn't as complicated as the ambassador is trying to maintain. It just requires the great powers to back the UN in this one.
Mr. Partridge: Colonialism by the Israeli government? The entire Middle East is messed up because of British and French colonialism. And counties like China need to be wary of (falsely) accusing Israel of colonialism. What do you call Tibet, the Falklands, Guantanamo in Cuba, Crimea? If we subscribe to your doctrine, California, Arizona, Texas, and more should be returned to Mexico and New York to the Iroquois Indians.



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