Netanyahu says received invitation to China, amid tense US-Israel ties

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he had been invited to China and his office had informed close ally the United States about the planned trip to Beijing.

The announcement comes during tense ties between Israel and the US, whose President Joe Biden failed to invite Netanyahu for a visit after the Israeli’s reelection in November.

“The projected visit will be Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fourth visit to China,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement, noting “the American administration was updated one month ago.”

It said the premier had also informed a bipartisan Congressional delegation about the trip and told the Congress members that the “US will always be Israel’s most vital and irreplaceable ally.” A spokesman for Netanyahu when contacted by AFP could not provide further details on the planned trip or when it was expected to happen.

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Tensions have arisen over the Biden administration’s consistent calling for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and criticizing settlement expansion under Netanyahu. He returned to power in December in a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, including hardline settlers.

Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been stalled since 2014.

Biden has also called on Netanyahu to reach a compromise on his controversial legal reforms, denounced by critics as a threat to democracy, and which the government has vowed to advance after mediation efforts collapsed.

China has been on a diplomatic offensive in the Middle East, brokering the restoration of ties in March between Iran and Saudi Arabia — rivals in a region where Washington for decades has been the main diplomatic powerbroker.

Earlier this month, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas visited China, and in April China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang held telephone talks with top Israeli and Palestinian diplomats, telling them that Beijing was ready to help facilitate peace talks.

Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken last week made a rare visit to Beijing, where Chinese leader Xi Jinping said he saw headway in the strained relationship with the United States.

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