China accuses Israel of ignoring Palestinian ‘survival and right of return’

China Mideast Diplomacy
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, far right, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, third left, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, second left, listen to a speech by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki, foreground center, during a round table meeting at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. Andy Wong/AP

China accuses Israel of ignoring Palestinian ‘survival and right of return’

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A top Chinese Communist Party official said that Israel has flouted the Palestinian rights of “survival and their right of return” to the territory of the Jewish state.

“The fundamental reason for the cycle of conflict between Palestine and Israel is that the Palestinian people’s right to statehood and survival and their right of return to their homes have been ignored for a long time,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday. “The way out is to implement the two-state solution and establish an independent Palestinian state.”


Wang aired the criticism at a diplomatic forum attended by his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia, as well as Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki. Israel was not represented, however, as Beijing makes an effort to cultivate ties with “Arab and Islamic countries” in the Middle East and around the world.

“We are here to send a clear signal: that is we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings, we must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, according to Al-Monitor. “We aspire to cooperate with China and other countries that understand the seriousness of the situation to end the war.”

The matter of the Palestinian “right of return” dates back to the founding of Israel, when British forces withdrew from the region and the Jewish people there founded the state of Israel in the borders drawn by a United Nations resolution. That resolution also delineated an “independent Arab state,” but that state never was declared, as neighboring Arab countries seized the territory while conducting a war against the nascent Jewish state.

About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced in that conflict, according to U.N. statistics, a population that has grown to 5.9 million people over the ensuing decades. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered a plan for a two-state solution at a Camp David summit in 2000, but Palestinian Liberation Authority leader Yasser Arafat rejected the deal because it did not cede the right of return for those millions.

“He did not negotiate in good faith; indeed, he did not negotiate at all. He just kept saying no to every offer, never making any counterproposals of his own,” Barak would say later. “What they want is a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. … Their game plan is to establish a Palestinian state while always leaving an opening for further ‘legitimate’ demands down the road. …Then they will push for a binational state and then demography and attrition will lead to a state with a Muslim majority and a Jewish minority. This would not necessarily involve kicking out all the Jews. But it would mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.”

The trip marked the first stop on the Saudi-led delegation’s diplomatic tour, which reportedly will include visits to Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. The conflict in Gaza has raged since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists rampaged across southern Israel, massacring civilians in an attack that left more than 1,400 people dead and thousands more wounded as Hamas took more than 200 hostages into Gaza.

“There are significant advantages to being seen as the champion of the little guy, which is how I think China is framing this discussion,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies analyst Josh Birenbaum told the Washington Examiner. “There’s certainly no talk of Hamas and terrorism. For a country that, again, represses its own citizens in the name of national security and border security, that’s an interesting omission. So there has to be something else at work.”

The delegation, notably, did not include some of Saudi Arabia’s closest allies in the Arab world, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have normalized diplomatic relations with Israel in recent years. Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia were working to finalize a similar deal in the months prior to the Oct. 7, a negotiation that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials said they hoped to disrupt by carrying out the attack.

Bahrain, for its part, issued a milestone condemnation of Hamas at a security conference in Manama, the Gulf Arab state’s capital city.

“The attacks on Oct. 7 were barbaric. They were horrific. They were indiscriminate. They killed women, children, the elderly, it did not matter,” Bahraini Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, the state’s crown prince, said Friday at the Manama Dialogue. “And on top of that, it seems it’s OK now to grab hostages and take them away and speak about it as if it’s an act of war. That is something that we condemn.”

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza also is “reprehensible,” he said, citing the thousands of reported civilian casualties, and he endorsed a prospective deal for Hamas to release its hostages in exchange.

“I don’t think any Arab leader has called on Hamas to release the hostages,” al Khalifa said. “So it is a time for straight talking. It is a time when political positioning and the perpetuation of poisonous narratives and opposing narratives must no longer be our methodology.”


The same message could be directed to Beijing, a former U.S. official suggested. “I think China is decidedly sympathetic to the Hamas, and their domestic propaganda is nothing but that … but they don’t take sides in a very clear-cut way,” said Hudson Institute senior fellow Miles Yu, a former China policy adviser to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “This is typical Chinese opportunism. In major international issues [and this] particular crisis, China has tried to play both sides.”

Chinese officials, in any case, maintained that their position is clear and aligned with the “Arab and Islamic” world. “Since the outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, China’s position on firmly supporting a ceasefire, protecting civilians, providing humanitarian assistance and realizing the two-state solution is highly similar to that of Arab and Islamic countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Monday.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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