China’s vice president visited the West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who called for greater Chinese involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
According to the PA’s official WAFA news agency, Hamdallah told Wang Qishan that Israel and the United States have greatly undermined peace talks and the two-state solution, pointing to settlement construction in the West Bank and moves by the Trump administration such as the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Noting China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Hamdallah told Qishan that Beijing should take an active role in the peace process and back PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for an international conference on the issue. He also said China should pressure Israel over alleged violations of international law, according to WAFA.
Though a member of the Security Council, China has historically had a minor role in peace talks, which have been largely led by the US. It is also not a member of the Middle East Quartet, which includes countries and international organizations involved in mediating the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.
While in the West Bank, Qishan also visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born.
Qishan later met with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem.
“The relations between the two countries are based on a long shared history, as you mentioned, and also on partnership in innovation,” Qishan told Rivlin, according to the president’s office.
“Israel does not have large natural resources, but the miracle of development rests on the tremendous human capital of this nation. Human beings are the most precious asset.”
Rivlin for his part boasted Israel-China ties are “excellent — based on mutual respect, a shared past and a promising future.”
Qishan is the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Israel since then-president Jiang Zemin’s trip in 2000.
Wang arrived in Israel Monday for a four-day visit focusing on high-level talks on economic cooperation.
Shortly after arriving on a special Air China flight, Wang, the country’s eighth-highest-ranking official, headed to the Old City of Jerusalem, where he visited the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Old City is in East Jerusalem, which Beijing does not recognize as Israeli territory.
Nonetheless, Wang was accompanied during there by two senior officials from the Foreign Ministry: Chief of protocol Reuven Meron and deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen.
He later was hosted for dinner by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Qishan’s visit a “sign of our growing friendship.”
Later this week, Wang is to co-host the 4th meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation together with Netanyahu.
Beijing and Jerusalem are both seeking to advance issues of mutual interest during this week’s meetings, such as a possible free trade agreement or a 10-year multiple entry visa agreement for tourists and businesspeople, according to the ministry.
Ahead of his visit, Israeli officials were quoted as warning of getting too close to China as the Asian giant could pose a possible security risk.
Some in Jerusalem have expressed worries about Chinese companies participating in massive infrastructure projects and about the sale of Israeli technology to Beijing.
Officials have reportedly warned that some infrastructure projects could introduce the possibility of China spying on some of Israel’s most sensitive assets.
Adam Rasgon and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.