Let’s face the fact. Israel is here to stay. Protest meetings at Baitul Muqarram and angry FB posts won’t make it disappear. It’s stronger than all its Arab neighbours and has the strongest military power till date as its friend. So the chances of Israel vanishing in the face of protest or through the powers of prayer and anti- Israeli feelings won’t happen.
Hamas is a political reality too as much as its history of birth. Basically, a product of Israel, the objective of birthing it was to destroy and damage the “secular” leadership that was emerging in Palestine. Hamas did achieve that. It’s Jihadist and aggressive and is backed by similar names and supporters including Iran. Palestine, apart from Hamas, has wider support naturally.
So it’s not just Israel and Palestine and Islamic Ummah and the Jewry but the US and Iran, and the fractional Islamic lobby including Turkey, Pakistan and Central Asia and the rest. But the global powers and conflict scenario has changed. Many studies have shown how the cold war influenced the inevitable side taking by the two rivals US and USSR, but it’s here that the situation has changed most.
China has emerged as the new player and in the face of the declining West, many equations are being redone. Israel is supported by a weakening West so it is desperately trying to become self-reliant. Or at least become less West dependent. But to whom will Palestine go and sell what in return for support? Truth and injustice and historical agonies have low diplomatic sale value. The crisis is bigger for Palestine than Israel. What with Hamas in charge whose Islamic rhetoric rattles everyone including their own supporters, the cause itself is weakening also.
The China position
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on both Israel and Palestine to de-escalate their conflict during the recent conflict, the biggest since 2014.
Chinese official Zhao Lijian said, “Wang Yi put forward a four-point proposal regarding the Palestine-Israel situation, pointing out that ceasefire and cessation of violence is the top priority and all parties, especially Israel, are urged to exercise restraint and stop hostilities immediately.” China specifically mentions Israel, obviously the stronger power and pro-US ally. It also doesn’t wish to isolate too many Muslim countries. But it’s not asking for the end of Israel.
In July, UN envoy Zhang Jun told the United Nations Security Council that “China is a sincere friend of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people can always count on China’s support for their just cause and legitimate national rights.” But China has nothing against doing business with Israel.
When the two countries established official ties (1992), bilateral trade was only US$50 million which today is $11 billion. China has put billions into Israel’s technology sector and is also a major BRI pusher there.
The Israeli lobby of course read China wrong because they thought it was “friendship” etc but as always it is convenience that decides international relations. “China consistently votes against Israel at the UN and supports both Iran and Hamas. It accepts Hamas as the representative of the Palestinians. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has also reaffirmed China’s longstanding conviction that “the Palestinian question has always been the core of the Middle East issue,” wrote Dale Aluf recently, who is with the SIGNAL ( Sino Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership) group.
China is aware of the weakening status of the West, particularly the US and is pushing the borders without hassling the so called Umma world which houses many BRI partners, not to mention trade exchanges. It buys ME oil and there is a great deal of support for China’s Uighur policy in the region. Meanwhile, US’s policy of not allowing the Security Council to issue a resolution as it feared it might escalate violence was used by China to trash US’s claimed neutrality. China is also not hesitating to trash Israel when needed but it knows commercial relationships will not be hampered.
The decision by Bangladesh to delete “all countries except Israel” stamp on its national passport has drawn some ire from the pro-Islamic and Palestinian lobby. GOB has explained that it’s to bring it at par with other passports of the world. It was followed up with another statement saying that any visitors to Israel will be punished. They all sounded a bit lame but it signaled a change.
Bangladesh has increasingly moved towards an economic state model where political issues matter less and in this way its closer to China than the US. Its HR record is poor but the economic record is positive and it isn’t very apologetic about its chosen path. Its relationship with the ME is its remittance economy. The biggest player in this is Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh would not have taken the stamp off decision without some kind of understanding that there would not be any backlash. So if the Saudis are softening their stance, Bangladesh will follow suit.
The Al-Jazeera documentary had accused Bangladesh of buying technical equipment from Israel and its possible clandestine links have been there for a while. If Israel thinks that Bangladesh is an Islamic state like Pakistan and wants to help out a perceived enemy, Bangladesh as a peasant driven economic state may not find reasons to refuse. Its position on Jamaat, Jongis and Hefazat should make it obvious that no matter how pious the population may think the state should be, it is “secular” state interest that drives it. And that will decide its future relations with the Middle East.