During the recent conflict in the Gaza strip between Israel and Palestine, one unlikely member of the international community stood out to mediate a peaceful negotiation — China. China called for the emergency Security Council meeting to address the ongoing conflict. During the meeting, Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, called for peace and negotiation while also urging for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, China has publicly invited both Israel and Palestine representatives to come to Beijing to participate in a new round of talks.
China seems to be a different or even an unorthodox moderator for the negotiation between Israel and Palestine. However, Chinese participation could be potentially beneficial for the future of the troubled land. Though not actively facilitating the talks in the past, China has the credits to coordinate the negotiations. Both Israel and Palestine should consider the peace talk offer extended from Beijing. China may genuinely be the best middleman to coordinate the negotiation between the two hostile parties.
From an Israel-Palestine point of view, the previous methods and roadmap for peace may be on the brink of collapse. It may be the time for a new potential solution and a road map for peace. It has been 28 years since the Oslo Accords were signed. Oslo Accords, at the time, have provided a helpful road map for peace and stability in the region in the future. It also added the critical limit to the conflict scale between Israel and Palestine while ending the long-lasting international terrorism and assassination between the two states.
However, the Oslo Accords were far from perfect. The violence between Palestine and Israel still goes on. From 2001 to 2006 to 2021, the blood spilling has never ended. Furthermore, the Oslo Accords did not answer Israeli security concerns, while Palestinian rights are also under severe challenges and damages during the past years. At this moment, it is safe to say that Oslo Accords is on the verge of bankruptcy. It may be time for both Israel and Palestine to consider a new direction in negotiation.
Currently, the Chinese proposed a four-point peace plan back in 2017. China mentioned it again in 2021 during the UNSC meeting. The Four Point plan calls for an independent Palestine State while taking immediate measures to end the violence targeting civilians from both sides. It further calls for international collaboration to seek a political solution to the Palestinian questions. From the plan, China aims to find the balance between both Israeli and Palestinian interests. While it is a long and arduous process to look for a new solution, China may be the one that can provide this new direction.
To add to that, does China have the capacity and understanding of the issues in the region? The answer is yes. China has participated in the negotiation between Arab states and Israel earlier. In 2013, Netanyahu and Abbas were both in China, only one day apart. China also offered to facilitate talks between the two as well. Also, relatively more minor political participation in the region makes China possible to stand neutral. During the Security Council meeting to address the recent Palestine-Israel conflict, China has clearly stated its support for the two-state solution. From the Four Point Proposal, China seeks to find a balance between Israel and Palestine. Chinese policy has been apparent that all negotiations must be based on the two-state solution.
From a Chinese perspective, a peaceful Middle East suits the Chinese vision and strategic interests perfectly. If China wants to push further on its Belt and Road Initiative, it has to have a stable environment in the Middle East. The Middle East is a significant part of the BRI. It is the critical crossroad between China, Africa, and Europe in the BRI. China seeks to expand its influence in the Middle East beyond economics, and a peace mediation will bring its way to more political activities in the region. In its four-point plan, China has clearly stated that it considers both Israel and Palestine essential partners for the BRI.
Furthermore, from a moral perspective, providing a middle ground for negotiations between Israel and Palestine will be necessary for the Chinese diplomatic relationship. Even though being an honest and commonly supported mediator will be extremely hard, especially in this case, the Chinese participation in negotiation will gain the critical support and trust China needs, especially among Arab states. China has stated its support towards Palestinians’ self-determination. Providing mediation between Palestine and Israel will further bring moral benefits to the Chinese, essential for the development of the BRI in the future.
Admittedly, there are challenges that China will face if it becomes the new mediator. As I have mentioned, it is hard to be a mediator that both sides will trust. Within the four points, mentioning the abolishment of all illegal settlements will remain a challenge between all future parties in the negotiation. However, with the traditional roadmap to peace on the edge of dissolution and an open plan that China may offer, Palestine and Israel should consider the offer from the Chinese. The blood spill costs the lives of the people and shuts the door for future development. The Chinese plan may not be perfect, but it may be the surprising path that both sides should take.
Henry Huang serves as the Research and Communications Assistant at the DPRK Strategic Research Center in KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He graduated with a Bachelors’s degree from the George Washington University Elliott School of International AffairsThe views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.