Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to cancel — for the second time — a scheduled trip to China, choosing instead to stay at home and focus on upcoming elections, an Israeli source told the Maariv news website NRG.
Netanyahu had planned to visit China in June, but will move to push off the trip as early elections in early fall have become a near-certainty.
The June trip was meant to make up for a previous canceled trip in 2010, according to Maariv. In that case, Netanyahu chose instead to fly to the United States to speak to the Jewish Federations General Assembly in New Orleans, a move that angered Beijing, according to a Haaretz report.
China, which maintains good relations with Iran, has tried to maintain strong ties with Jerusalem as well, recently signing economic cooperation agreements, including for a rail line from central Israel to Eilat on the Red Sea.
In March, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visited China to push for tougher sanctions on Iran and bolster trade relations.
Sino-Israeli trade increased from $8 million in 1990 to $5.5 billion in 2010. According to Foreign Policy, bilateral trade currently stands “at almost $10 billion” — and both sides are interested in intensifying trade relations even further.
In February, Netanyahu appointed Minister Matan Vilnai as Israel’s representative in Beijing. He explained the high-level appointment as a move intended to buttress relations with the superpower.
“We want to significantly increase our trade and economic ties with the rising powers of the east, especially China,” Netanyahu said then.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report