While Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wrapped up his visit to China, Barbara Demick of The Los Angeles Times reported that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured Shanghai on Tuesday ahead of his own visit to the Chinese capital:
The concurrent visits to China of the Middle East antagonists created some diplomatic awkwardness. Although the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times suggested the two might hold an impromptu meeting, Netanyahu’s itinerary apparently was arranged to avoid that possibility.
“Abu Mazen is in Beijing,” said an Israeli official who requested anonymity, using Abbas’ nickname. “They didn’t want to meet on the same ground.”
Netanyahu’s visit is the first by an Israeli leader since 2007, and Demick notes that he paid tribute to a neighborhood where thousands of Jews found shelter after fleeing Nazi Germany. He planned to meet Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang in Beijing on Wednesday, after Abbas had already departed the country.
Netanyahu’s visit also comes in the wake of an attack on Syrian military targets over the weekend, strikes that were reportedly carried out by Israeli forces. On Monday, A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the strikes without calling out Israel by name. From CNN:
“We oppose the use of weapons. We believe the sovereignty of any country should be respected,” said Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman on Monday, responding to reports that Israel carried out airstrikes against its neighbor Syria last weekend.
“China calls upon relevant parties to bear in mind peace and stability of the region, to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that may escalate the tension,” she added.
Bloomberg reports that during his tour of a local synagogue in Shanghai, Netaynahu refrained from mentioning Syria but reiterated Israel’s right to self-defense:
“Today we have a state of our own, an army of our own,” Netanyahu said at the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, which once served 30,000 Jewish refugees who found shelter in the city during the war. “We need not beg to be saved. We can defend ourselves.”