China, Hosting Mahmoud Abbas, Pushes Mediator Role With Israel

Chinese state media outlets had talked up the possibility of a breakthrough on Israel and the Palestinian leadership. But in the Middle East, the latest proposal did not raise many hopes.

“Against the backdrop of a wave of reconciliation in the Middle East, there is great anticipation for whether this visit will bring more hope for peace in the region,” an editorial in Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party tabloid, said on Tuesday. It also accused Washington of being “deeply culpable” in the Palestinian issue.

China has previously made efforts to mediate between the Israelis and Palestinians, with attempts in 2013, 2017, and 2021. In his recent three-part plan, President Xi’s proposals seem to align with previous suggestions. The plan emphasizes the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state, based on the borders of 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also calls for increased international aid to support a Palestinian state and proposes the organization of a comprehensive international peace conference to facilitate discussions, although specific details were not provided.

Since the collapse of peace negotiations in 2014, the prospect of their resumption in the near future seems unlikely, regardless of Chinese involvement. Both Israelis and Palestinians are deeply divided, lacking consensus on how to approach the conflict internally, let alone find common ground with the opposing side. Israel’s current government leans heavily towards right-wing ideology, with limited support for the idea of Palestinian sovereignty. Consequently, it is unlikely that Chinese intervention would substantially alter this stance.

Still, China’s role in brokering the Saudi-Iran deal, and its growing global stature generally, have changed the stakes of its potential involvement, said Robert Mogielnicki, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, who has studied Chinese-Middle East relations. China’s past involvement in the region has been primarily economic, he said; now, Beijing is signaling that it is “graduating” from that level of support.

“The particular context of what many people perceive as a shifting global order potentially gives more significance to this visit,” he said.

Patrick Kingsley and Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting, and Joy Dong and John Liu contributed research.

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