Netanyahu to visit China despite US concerns

No dates have yet been given for the trip, which will be the long-serving Israeli Prime Minister's fourth visit to Beijing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from right), flanked by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Yariv Levin (second from left), Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) and Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs, attends cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. EPA
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he has been invited to China, in a fresh sign that Beijing is trying to increase its power in the Middle East.

Mr Netanyahu made the announcement while meeting members of the US House of Representatives, according to Israel's government press office.

No dates for the visit have been given.

The Prime Minister is yet to receive an official invitation to the US, despite it being almost half a year since he formed his government, which is considered the most right-wing in Israel's history.

The lack of an invitation is widely seen as a sign of Washington's displeasure at what it views as Mr Netanyahu's government's radical agenda, which includes rapidly expanding Israel's settlement programme in the occupied West Bank and plans for a deeply controversial legal reform, which opponents say threatens democracy in the country.

Mr Netanyahu stressed in the meeting that the US remains Israel's "most vital and irreplaceable ally," a sign that Israel's government is trying to placate American concerns over Beijing's growing footprint in the region.

Opposition politician and former senior Mossad official Ram Ben Barak said the visit would be a “strategic mistake of the first order”.

Earlier this month, China hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which both sides expanded plans to form a strategic partnership.

This included China putting Palestine forward for dialogue partner status at the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a multilateral body that focuses mostly on regional security threats.

The trip will be Mr Netanyahu's fourth visit to China.

Updated: June 27, 2023, 12:25 PM