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China-MENA Podcast November 22, 2022

China-Israel Relations

By Atlantic Council


Key takeaways

  • Overview of the Israel-China bilateral relationship
  • Israel’s perspective of the Belt and Road Initiative of China
  • The issue of Port of Haifa regarding the power struggle in the region
  • China’s meddling in Israeli domestic affairs, and its role in the Israel-Palestine question
  • Israel’s perspective on China’s grand strategy in MENA

[00:00] Introduction
[01:53] Overview of the Israel-China bilateral relationship
[09:02] China-Israel relationship: Is it cooling down?
[16:01] The BRI as a medium for Israel to connect with its neighboring countries
[24:44] The port of Haifa linking to different Chinese-managed ports
[31:03] China engaging in Israel’s domestic politics
[36:58] Thoughts on China being a mediator between Israel and Palestine
[42:53] Israel’s thoughts on China’s approach in the MENA region
[50:20] Articles and resources

In this episode

Brigadier General (Ret.) Assaf Orion
Senior Researcher and Director of The Diane & Guilford Glazer Israel-China Policy Center
Institute For National Security Studies (INSS) – Tel Aviv

BG (Ret.) Orion is a retired Israeli brigadier general and defense strategist whose broad research scope ranges from relations with China to Israel’s regional political-military strategy and policy. During his career in the Israel Defense Forces, General Orion was responsible for strategic policy formulation, international cooperation, and military diplomacy. He also served as a liaison to neighboring militaries and peacekeeping forces in the region. He was most recently the head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff. In this position, he was in charge of communication with UNIFIL and the Lebanese army, led staff meetings with counterparts from the Pentagon and from other Western militaries, took part in the U.S.-Israel security dialogue, and represented the IDF in talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The fact that Middle Eastern countries’ relationships with China are complicated has been a recurring theme throughout this show. Nothing is as simple as the headlines would have us believe. The Sino-Israeli relationship is particularly complex. Dense economic ties must be balanced against Israel’s deeper and far more important ties with the US. While China does a lot of business with Israel, its international support for Palestine limits its political cooperation with the Jewish state.

In this podcast’s episode, we are joined by Assaf Orion, a senior researcher at the Institute of National Security Studies and the Director of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Israel China Policy Center in Tel-Aviv, Israel, to discuss the dynamics of the China-Israel relationship and how it affects Israel as a state, as well as its neighbors and the Israel-Palestine relationship.

You can read more of Assaf’s work here: No, Israel Isn’t Falling Into China’s Orbit.

Hosted by

“China has started the Global Development Initiative, which is a non-Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which tells us that the BRI has been less successful.”

Assaf Orion

About the China-MENA podcast

The China-MENA podcast features conversations with academics, think-tankers, and regional specialists on Chinese Influence in the Middle East and informs US and MENA audiences in the policy and business communities about the nature of China’s outreach to the region.

At a time when China’s global footprint is getting deeper and deeper, it has never been more important to understand its foreign policy and the Middle East is one of the world’s most consequential regions: home to major religions, diverse cultural and social heritage, central to global energy markets, and of course, geopolitics, linking people and markets in Asia, Africa and Europe.  This show will help you understand what China is doing in the region, and how the region is engaging with China as an increasingly important external power.

Podcast series

Listen to the latest episode of the China-MENA podcast, featuring conversations with academics, government leaders, and the policy community on China’s role in the Middle East.

Recommended reading

This podcast was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

Further reading

Related Experts: Jonathan Fulton

Image: FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands ahead of their talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 21, 2017. Etienne Oliveau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo *** Local Caption *** Xi Jinping;Benjamin Netanyahu