Naftali Bennett has several challenging tasks ahead of him as the new Prime Minister of Israel. Within 48 hours of his taking office, Hamas tested Bennett by sending incendiary balloons strapped with explosives. Bennett responded without any hesitation and bombed the perpetrators. However, apart from regional rivals, Bennett has a new challenge on the horizon, China!
Chinese foreign policy for the Middle East had largely been passive over the years. However, that started to change in 2012 when the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party adopted the new foreign policy strategy termed ‘Major Country Diplomacy’. Under it, China invested $28.5 billion in the Middle East over the next four years. By 2016, it had become the largest investor in the region and was now demanding geopolitical say here.
However, Chinese interests in the region clash with those of Israel. A recent example was seen in Lebanon. Under a deal, China gave the Lebanese military 100 army vehicles as part of military assistance. Lebanon’s government has Hezbollah as its partner. They have time and again threatened Israel with destruction.
Then, during the 11-day war with Hamas, China criticised the Israeli actions and even gave $1 million in cash to the Hamas controlled region.
Another example is Turkey. Early this week, China and Turkey signed to raise the currency swap arrangement from $2.6 billion to $6 billion. In the last few years, Turkey has altered its foreign policy, under which it vehemently opposes Israel. Moreover, it also funds various terror organisations in the Middle East. Turkey continues to receive a steady stream of deals from China. In many cases, the money ends up in the hands of Turkey-backed terrorists across the region. China is taking advantage of the sick Turkish economy to secure various deals with President Erdogan.
Last but not least, Iran. Last year, China signed a whopping $400 billion strategic agreement for 25 years with Iran. Tehran has kept the deal’s details under wraps, thus raising severe suspicions among all the regional and neighbouring countries. Of course, Iran’s arch-rival Israel is no exception to it. It is believed that battered and down with the pandemic, Iran was forced to sign the deal with China.
Overall, using its debt-trap diplomacy and quick money, China has entered the Middle East and now wants to play an active role. However, the changing equations pose a direct threat to Israel’s national security.