Palestine Is Ripe for Chinese Mediation

With Abbas’ state visit to China this week, M.K. Bhadrakumar says Beijing’s mediation on the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement lends credibility to a Chinese initiative on the Palestine issue.

Ma Zhaoxu, now China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, in 2019 when he was China’s U.N ambassador, during a briefing by Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process and personal representative of the secretary-general to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

By M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken drew a blank in Riyadh in his mission to coax Saudi Arabia to grant diplomatic recognition to Israel and resuscitate the moribund Abraham Accords. The Saudi stance is unwavering:  a two-state solution to the Palestine problem first; normalisation with Israel can only come after that.  

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said at his joint press conference with Blinken on Thursday that

“without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalisation will have limited benefits. And therefore, I think we should continue to focus on finding a pathway towards a two-state solution, on finding a pathway towards giving the Palestinians dignity and justice. And I think the U.S. has a similar view, that it’s important to continue on those efforts.” 

Blinken later called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to brief him. The State Department readout mentioned that they “discussed areas of mutual interest, including expanding and deepening Israel’s integration into the Middle East through normalisation with countries in the region.” 

[Related: Blinken’s Failed Saudi Visit]

After the Saudi snub to the U.S., Beijing announced on Friday that, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s state visit to China would begin on Tuesday and end this Friday.  

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at the daily press briefing on Friday effusively spoke of Abbas and “the high-level friendly relations between China and Palestine.” Wang reiterated Beijing’s intention to mediate between Palestine and Israel and mentioned Xi’s hands-on role. 

Wang said:

“The Palestinian question is at the heart of the Middle East issue and matters to the region’s peace and stability and global equity and justice. China has all along firmly supported the Palestinian people’s just cause of restoring their legitimate national rights. For 10 consecutive years, President Xi Jinping has sent congratulatory messages to the special commemorative meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. More than once he put forward China’s proposals for resolving the Palestinian question, stressing the need to resolutely advance a political settlement based on the two-state solution and intensify international efforts for peace. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China will continue to work with the international community for a comprehensive, just and enduring solution to the Palestinian question at an early date.” 

In the Chinese political system, the Foreign Ministry rarely invokes the name of Xi Jinping. At the very least, Abbas’ visit to China and China’s public diplomacy track on the whole would suggest that Beijing may have sounded out Israel and other important stakeholders — Saudi Arabia, in particular — and found that the early signs are encouraging.

Limited Options for Israel 

With the Abraham Accords turning into a pipe dream, Israel has nowhere to go and nothing more to lose as it emerges that the U.S. is struggling to shore up its regional influence. 

Without doubt, the Palestine problem is at the core of the Middle East crisis. For the past four decades, the U.S. and Israel deflected attention by whipping up paranoia about Shia Iran’s threat to the Sunni Arab regimes but with the Saudi-Iranian normalisation, it appears Washington and Tel Aviv have been hoisted on their own petard. 

Last Thursday, the prominent Russian newspaper Izvestia reported that “reconciliation between Tehran and Riyadh is in full swing.” It quoted the commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, disclosing that a number of countries in the region, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, are going to form a “new maritime coalition for actions in the northern waters of the Indian Ocean.”

Interestingly, the U.A.E. recently decided to withdraw from the U.S.-led maritime security coalition operating in the Middle East, explaining that the decision came “after a lengthy assessment of the effectiveness of security cooperation with all partners.” 

Gulf States & China Mull Coalition  

Now, Tehran is proposing a regional coalition instead. According to the Qatari news portal Al-Jadid, the navies of the Gulf states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Oman, will form a coalition with China.

By the way, Prince Faisal underscored at Thursday’s press conference with Blinken:

“China is an important partner for the kingdom and most countries in the region, and I think that partnership has given us and China significant benefits.  And that cooperation is likely to grow just because China’s economic impact in the region and beyond is likely to grow as its economy continues to grow.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh on June 7. (State Department, Hisham Mousa/ Public domain)

The prominent Kremlin politician Alexei Pushkov has written in his Telegram channel that all these trends are “a demonstration of the new independence of the countries of the non-Western world, which are developing relations among themselves without much regard for the United States.” 

But rhetoric aside, it was left to Prince Faisal in a revealing remark at the press conference, in Blinken’s presence, to frame the profound winds of change sweeping across the Middle East:

“I think we are all capable of having multiple partnerships and multiple engagements, and the U.S. does the same in many instances.  So, I am not caught up in this really negative view of this.  I think we can — we can actually build a partnership that crosses these borders.  I think I’ve heard statements also from the U.S. about a desire to find pathways to better cooperation, even with China.  So, I think we can only encourage that, because we see the future in cooperation, we see the future in collaboration, and that means between everybody.”

This is also where President Recep Erdogan’s victory in the Turkish election becomes a tipping point, as it has a multiplier effect on the regional yearnings for a new dawn that were eloquently framed by Prince Faisal.  

Indeed, the mediation on the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement lends credibility to Beijing’s initiative on the Palestine issue. Russia whole-heartedly backs the initiative. (Moscow is also navigating Saudi Arabia’s membership of BRICS for an early decision.)

[Related: Seismic Iran-Saudi Rapprochement Isolates US]

That said, the Palestine issue has proved to be intractable so far. But then, the crux of the matter is that Washington was lacking in dedication and sincerity of purpose and U.S. domestic politics played havoc.

The U.S. had all the advantages but it looked at any Palestinian settlement primarily through the geopolitical prism with a view to preserve its regional hegemony, control the oil market, punish Iran and use the Iran bogey to promote arms sales, exclude Russia from the region, and above all, pin down the regional states to the petrodollar phenomenon which sustains dollar’s status as reserve currency. 

Enter China with a clean slate. China has excellent relations with Israel. Evidently, Israel is brooding about a dark future. The old swagger has vanished. Netanyahu looks tired and old. Whereas, from the full height of its regional prestige today, China is well-placed to offer to Israel a new creative pathway backed by all regional states, which even the non-state actors of the so-called axis of resistance will not dare to undermine.

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. The views are personal.

This article is from Indian Punchline.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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12 comments for “Palestine Is Ripe for Chinese Mediation

  1. RR
    June 16, 2023 at 04:44

    How will workers fare in an independent Palestine under a new set of leaders, some drawn from Hamas or the PA (both seems unlikely if a report in The Guardian from 23 October, 2018 tittled ‘Palestinian security forces routinely torture critics, rights group says’ is to be believed)? Little seems to have changed: ‘ On the streets of Ramallah in recent weeks, a popular slogan has been recycled from the Arab Spring revolutions which swept the Middle East in 2011: “The people want the fall of the regime”‘ (BBC, 7 September 2021)..

    ‘Some 2.54 million people in Israel, including 1.118 million children, live in poverty, according to a report released yesterday by the Latet non-profit aid organisation. Nearly 652,000 families – nearly 25 per cent of households in the country – are living in poverty, the study found’ (Middle East Monitor, 21 December 2021).

    Little wonder then Norman Finkelstein stated in 2014:
    ‘If you ask my personal preference, I would say that I don’t believe in two states; I don’t believe in one state; I happen not to believe in any states.’

    ‘Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent-thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the “Nation,” it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry’ (Arundhati Roy, c. 2008).

  2. Rob Roy
    June 16, 2023 at 01:20

    You have laid out a comprehensive plan for two states. However, that still leaves Palestine unfairly confined to being split up when, in fact, their land has been stolen. Why should a usurper have half a stolen land? Or 80% as has been decided in a two state settlement. Israel calls itself a “democracy.” The only way a democracy works is for a single state to exist with equal rights for all. You know as well as I that in a two-state solution, the Israeli Jew will continue to commit genicide until they attain “The Greater Israel,” the goal since 1948. They are incapable of changing this. Thus the UN should bring in its military and make a one state democracy happen.

    • Anon
      June 16, 2023 at 18:01

      Good thoughts. But I don’t think that a one-state plan with the Jewish Israelis would remain a democracy,
      Also I presume that both of states would be contiguous and viable in geography and infrastructure.
      I agree that the Jewish Israelis have no right to be there unless land except where was fairly purchased.
      They should have located on vacant or purchased land, perhaps W Sahara or Chiloe island off Chile.
      It was their extremist zionists who led to a promised land that no one but their extremists had promised.
      As there are now no survivors of the Nazi death camps, none of them even have rights to a refuge.

  3. Christie
    June 15, 2023 at 14:53

    The China-brokered ‘peace deal’ between Saudi Arabia and Iran is most welcome development. A fair and just, China-brokered deal between Palestinians and Israelis would depend on where China’s allegiance really lies. China no doubt wants things ‘settled’ in the region, as it sees Israel serving as the “technology hub” of its fast-growing ‘multipolar’ BRI network. Russian-Jewish immigrants into Israel (many of them illegal settlers) are boosting its tech sector.

    Israel claims it has already “annexed” the West Bank (see Foreign Affairs, “Israel’s annexation of the West Bank has already begun,” June 2023). Where do the Palestinians fit in?

    If outside mediation is to be feasible, Palestinians should be allowed to decide who is to represent them and how. To many Palestinians, President Mahmoud Abbas has no legitimacy.

    Perhaps the biggest concern is that President Xi seems to be fastened on a “two state” solution, as does the Saudi foreign minister. Two states would only ‘legitimize’ Israel’s existing apartheid system, leaving Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel acutely vulnerable and a Palestinian state virtually powerless against the military might of its neighbor.

    People are asking if an ethno-supremacist, Zionist (Jewish dominant) state really has legitimacy.

    The idea of a secular, “one-state” solution with EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL is currently gaining favor in the Palestinian community. If President Xi can get behind that idea, along with reparations, perhaps his offer of mediation help might have merit.

    Also, for this to be fair, outside powers subsidizing Israel’s military and its settlements would need to withdraw support. Does China subsidize Israel, say its tech industry? If so, I hope it’s about something other than surveillance and totalitarian control.

    Freeing Palestine could free the Middle East (think Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and beyond). We must not give up on this.

    • Rob Roy
      June 16, 2023 at 01:07

      Well stated, Christie.

      • June 16, 2023 at 15:25

        Zionist hatred and contempt for Palestinians is far deeper, as is the damage to Palestinians and 100 years of colonialist mentality.

        It’s unlikely that Israel is capable of adopting Chinese notions of harmony and conciliation, without which, the injustice done to Palestine will continue.

  4. June 15, 2023 at 11:39

    If only!

    The Israeli leadership, and increasingly, the Israeli citizenry, is oblivious to outside criticism free of consequences, and with the United States’ club firmly in its grasp due to AIPAC influence on both major political parties, Israel successfully launches costly attacks on any person (think Jeremy Corbin) or organization that seeks to hold it to account. I applaud Chinese involvement in the Middle East and agree that it has been unexpectedly successful, largely, I believe, because of the inept manner in which the US has dealt with the current Saudi Crown Prince and because of the consistent abuse of economic sanctions by the US, but I doubt that such tendencies will translate into a modifying force on Israeli Zionism.

    More’s the pity.

  5. Vera Gottlieb
    June 15, 2023 at 10:43

    Will China have what it takes to stand up to israel???

    • rosemerry
      June 15, 2023 at 16:07

      We read here that China has excellent relations with Israel. I find this article one of the most positive I have read in years!!!! Thanks to China, all the participants in these plans and Mr Bhadrakumar who always has interesting and clear information for us!!

  6. Robert
    June 15, 2023 at 08:54

    Whether it’s the Middle East, China, Russia, Latin America, etc. US foreign policy needs a major redirection because the multi polar world is here to stay. Unfortunately, the permanent residents of Washington D.C. (Blinken, Sullivan, Nuland + thousands more) are not capable of sensing what is happening in the non western world and instead of a course correction they are doubling down trying to maintain status quo.

    Ukraine is going to be seen as the tipping point when the multi polar world came into being. It was going to occur anyway , but the debacle of Ukraine certainly accelerated the pace.

  7. June 15, 2023 at 07:17

    Look at map of the eastern Mediterranean Sea before 1947 there is no such country as Isreal the whole of Palestine has been stolen by a bunch of zionist lunatics backed by the NATO loving warmongers. The atrocities against the indigenous inhabitants are a crime on par with the genocide of Nazi Germany.Some day soon Palestine will free from river to the sea.

  8. Anon
    June 15, 2023 at 06:07

    Mediation by China is practical, and their rapprochement of KSA and Iran was a triumph for the Mideast.
    Unification of Arab interests makes the two-state solution practical to end Israeli fascism in Palestine.

    The two-state plan should recognize the right to residence of all who were resident by some prior date, or descended from refugees, due to the difficulty of tracing injustice and the fact that most are innocent. Neither state may maintain military forces, and police should be UN supervised to prevent remilitarization.

    A census to be taken as of some prior year, to prevent packing residents or distorting the asset picture. The gross assets to be cataloged including all offshore and hidden assets, infrastructure, real estate, equipment, and personal property. Each state must be viable in shoreline, ports, water, farm resources, roads, independent utility infrastructure, and residential, commercial, and industrial improvements. A generous DMZ of desert or farmland between the states is reserved, securing bonds. The cost of development required to make each state viable is taken from the total assets before distribution to the two state groups (Js and Ps).

    The combined assets are then apportioned fairly between the two state groups. Distribution must compensate for the Ps deprivation of opportunity to accumulate property, while the Js accumulated property based upon resources taken from the Ps. This will cause loss of resources for the Js due to wrongful takings, but improved security. Stripping or wasting of assets taken is accounted and deducted from the group gross assets, and the owner penalized within the group.

    The gross assets apportioned to each group are distributed within the group, with a minimum share based upon age, and the balance distributed in proportion to each person’s prior assets relative to the group total assets. Persons may receive shares in jointly held property (the DMZ etc.), real estate, or funds; those with homes and business property should retain that or obtain something similar in their destination state, and may owe a government mortgage or receive a subsidy for improvements and relocations.

    Special compensation to be provided for those who were forced to live in refugee camps, suffered injuries, or are survivors of wrongful deaths. When the DMZ is partitioned after several decades of peace between the factions, the land may be sold and those with shares compensated or given mortgages on the land.

    To get there, assuming that Israel refuses to negotiate, it must be completely embargoed and the UN must demand an immediate two-state implementation, and if they refuse after reduction to poverty, make increasing shows of force, and if they insist so far as to prevent a peaceful solution, destroy all of their weapons, invade, and set up the solution, with Israel to be governed by the UN for three generations.

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