Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
President Isaac Herzog, October 12, 2021.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog spoke on Wednesday by phone with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, the first-ever phone call between the presidents of China and Israel.

Herzog’s office stated that the conversation “was conducted in a friendly and positive spirit,” and the two leaders discussed opportunities to enhance Israeli-Chinese bilateral ties with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year. They invited each other to visit their respective countries in honor of this important milestone. Herzog thanked Xi for the warm letter he sent him for his birthday this past September.

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On January 24, 1992, in Beijing, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen signed the agreement establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Israel recognized the People’s Republic of China in January 1950, the first state in the Middle East to do so. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations were only established in January 1992. Since then, the two states have enjoyed cooperation in a variety of areas, reaching new heights in recent years.

Xi noted that Herzog’s late father, Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president, was the first Israeli head of state to visit China upon the establishment of diplomatic ties, and Herzog said he was proud of his father’s role in this historic event.

Herzog expressed his “deep admiration for Chinese culture and the Chinese people,” and both leaders noted that Israel and China “are two ancient civilizations that have much to contribute to the world.”

The two also discussed “global and regional strategic affairs.”

Herzog updated Xi on the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab states in the framework of the Abraham Accords and noted that “this constitutes a positive development in the Middle East that must be encouraged.”

Herzog further noted that this trend “stands in complete contrast to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s activities, which are damaging and undermining regional stability in the Middle East.” Herzog further emphasized the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

China and Iran are allies and collaborate in various spheres. China, which purchases about 30% of its oil from Iran, has an interest in preventing a conflict between Iran and Israel, an event that would cripple its energy supply, and subsequently, its economy.

Both presidents expressed their hope for “greater Israeli-Chinese collaboration in the future” and noted that they “can promote meaningful collaborations in the fields of culture, the economy, tourism, and more.”

They reaffirmed their commitment to the China-Israel comprehensive innovation partnership, which will find expression in the fifth China-Israel Joint Committee for Innovation Cooperation in January 2022.

Mutual trade, which stood at $50 million when relations were initially established, has now reached more than $11 billion. China is Israel’s third-largest trade partner in the world and its largest partner in Asia. Significant hi-tech investments in Israel come from China.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.