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 offered to mediate relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians before, including in 2013, 2017 and 2021. Mr. Xi’s three-part plan on Wednesday did not appear to deviate much from prior proposals. It included the creation of a fully sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital; a call for increased international aid to a Palestinian state; and the convening of a “larger, more authoritative, more influential international peace conference” to promote talks, though the plan did not offer details.

After peace negotiations collapsed in 2014, there appears to be little chance of their near-future resumption, with or without Chinese involvement: Both Israelis and Palestinians are deeply divided and cannot agree among themselves about how to approach the conflict, let alone find common ground with the other side. Israel’s current government is its most right-wing ever, few of its members support the concept of Palestinian sovereignty, and Chinese intervention is unlikely to change that.

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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