“There’s still a lot of discussing to happen here,” Kirby told reporters.

“There is no agreed-to set of negotiations, there’s no agreed-to framework to codify normalisation or any of the other security considerations that we and our friends have in the region.”

Fostering stronger ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel – two top US allies in the Middle East – has become a central focus of the Biden administration’s policy in the region.

While Washington has not commented on the specifics of a potential Israeli-Saudi normalisation agreement, US officials have said they are seeking such a pact. AD

But critics have questioned whether making concessions to move a deal forward is in the US interest and whether an agreement would include significant gains for the Palestinians.


Knowing that the U.S. is trying to normalize relation between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I am wondering if China is doing the exact opposite as the U.S. is its biggest geopolitical rival. Lately, China was able to broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which undermined Israel's security interest, and now the U.S. is trying to win over the Saudi to help Israel. Am I imagining things?


4 Answers 4


Although Israel may not like the peace deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, there is no indication that China has anything against Israel and is therefore deliberately trying to undermine Israel or go against its interests in any way.

China is rivaling the US in the arena of global influence. China is trying to become a vital country to global stability by becoming more involved in the relationships between other countries. This is one of the ways that world powers ensure their endurance - by becoming the centerpoints of global major peace deals and relationships of other major countries.

In terms of war, China wants to create a situation such that other countries will fear to destroy them, i.e. "if the US destroys China in order to protect Taiwan, the whole world would go up in flames".

In terms of economics, they want to become boycott proof by creating a global economy of countries which are not dependent on the US. China hopes that non-western countries will develop their economies by doing business among themselves, thus creating a situation where if the US boycotts one of the non-western countries, it will effectively boycott itself rather than the targeted country.

Israel, on the other hand, wants its great friend the US to be the most dominant country in the international arena, for all the above-mentioned reasons.

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    Nobody is talking or thinking war here. China wants a diminished U.S. because frankly the US had a lot of cards and is significantly ahead of China in soft power. The US has no interest in "destroying China" even if it did come to war in Taiwan. As for boycott proof, perhaps. The non aligned countries don't have the economic juice to insulate China from the EU or US concerns. I think once again China is seeking soft power. Alliances they can control to shield them internationally from critics.
    – user47010
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 15:44
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    @JMS, I know that it's wierd, but worldpowers are developing their armies not just in order to combat the Taliban and ISIS, but also in order to be prepared to some future world war (since the war in the Ukraine, this started making more sense). You can hear it constantly from US defence heads, how they are comparing the US navy vs the Chinese navy, etc. - and they are spending billions to become more advanced "against" other world powers.
    – Jacob3
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 20:45
  • If Taiwan does spark a war it's unlikely to become WWIII. China is not yet able to conduct a global war. China only recently achieved the ability to perhaps successfully project power 70 miles off own their coast to Taiwan. Any conflict is much more likely to be limited, and not involve a homeland invasion or destruction by either side. If war comes it will be one of China's making and I can't believe they want that. Either way that will happen in Taiwan. What's going on in the M.E. is just plain old diplomacy. It's about advantage and is ultimately about averting war whoever wins.
    – user47010
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 12:28
  • @JMS "Si vis pacem, para bellum". Talking, thinking, and fighting war is the existing nation-states' literal raison d'etre. The tensions aren't high enough (I hope) for a repeat of WWII, but there are a few nations that long to end the geopolitical hyper-dominance of the US. So far the US has been able to play them against each other, but they know it's going on. There's no reason for anyone to invade the actual lower 48, of course.
    – Therac
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 12:01
  • @Therac, think my points of disagreement come down to, (1) China wants to create a situation such that other countries will fear to destroy it. and (2) if the US destroys China in order to protect Taiwan, and (3) they want to become boycott proof. My thoughts, (1) China's total debt is north of 50 Trillion dollars, and their economy is existentially linked to the global economy. The situation already exists. (2) If the US and China went to war over Taiwan the US goal would not be to destroy china but protect Taiwan which has been the status quo for what 75 years.
    – user47010
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 10:52

It may be a surprising fact, but both Israel and Iran have warm ties with China.

The emnity between the pair largely stems from the imbalanced nature of the ties Israel has with the US, which is an Iranian foe.

In Khomeini's pantheon, Israel was the "little Satan" to the US as the "great Satan". With the USSR, incidentally, falling somewhere in the middle of the scale.

Israel has long searched for a formula for peace with its neighbours, and it seems that with China both sides have found someone they can trust.

And everyone in the region is probably satisfied with a resulting reduction in US influence - including Israel itself, which will be less beholden to demands from the US which upset Israel's immediate neighbourhood.

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    I don't think anybody trusts anybody in the M.E. much less China. And neither the US nor Israel have any relationship with Iran. Iran who is further antagonizing the west with piracy in the Persian gulf, and material aid to Russia in it's ware with Ukraine. I also don't know if either Israel or Saudi would be "satisfied" with a reduced role of the US in the M.E. which has frankly worked out pretty well for both. I think both sides want to alter current U.S. policy / positions they or their leadership has found irksom.
    – user47010
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 15:20
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    @JMS, US meddling has made the ME like a Lebanese storage shed, writ large. I'm sure everyone wants to see a steadier ship.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 15:31
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    Perhaps for Iran which has had until recently no ties with the US, Saudi nor Israel and remains fairly isolated; but it's odd that Israel and Saudi who both are arguable major benefactors of that U.S. "meddling" would be fertile ground for change. I don't think so. I don't think either believe they would be better off today if the U.S. was diminished. Their desires only extend to a change of policy, not a change of players.
    – user47010
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 15:53


Is China actively trying to undermine Israel?

Not trying to undermine Israel, but perhaps willing to. China's major targets in the region are Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are both important energy sources for China, who is entirely dependent on imports for oil. By Chinese "targets" I mean countries who's support and closer ties China most desires. It was quite a coup for China to get normalized relations between Saudi and arguably their greatest existential antagonist in the region, Iran. I think optimally China would like to be seen as succeeding where America has failed for decades while maintaining or even better enhancing, friendly relations with Israel. Israel who is also an important independent source of technology, weapons, and expertise for China. The question is whether Israel's value to China is enough to offset Iran and perhaps even Saudi's value to China? Many have made the calculation over the decades estimating and equating Israel's importance to their own self interests and come away disappointing Israel. The calculators too coming away with a diminished role in the M.E. By disappointing I mean voting against Israel at the U.N. or selling arms to Israel's would be antagonists, or failing to sell arms to Israel because others in the region would find it objectionable. These are all future potential problems, not what Israel, Saudi, China, or the US are focused on right now.

What is occurring now?

All the players in this conversation are secure in the knowledge that they have cards to play if the game get's rougher. Well maybe with the exception of Iran, who is entirely dependent on China for a seat at the table. Right now they are all playing the game.

China is actively trying to compete with / undermine the United States in the region by offering a different view of the future. China is presenting themselves as a power broker. Really unclear what their vision is for the region, perhaps we can assume it has China in some leading role, with a firmer hand doling out edicts from Beijing? If China can be successful, it highlights the difficulties the US has had in the region and undermines the U.S globally, which other than enhanced ties with Iran and Saudi are China's primary goal in the area. Which leads to more Chinese prestige, access, and bigger role in international affairs. Soft power grab at the expense of the US. China's would love to be seen by all the players as a trusted friend. While not upsetting Iran, Saudi Arabia and if they can Israel. In that order. China's wolf warrior diplomacy tackles the M.E. They're going to love doing business with Israel. Color me pessimistic.

What's in this for Israel and Saudi? Israel and Saudi, both traditional American allies, both sophisticated players when it comes to international diplomacy. They want to continue and enhance lucrative trade with China, but also want to rattle America's cage a little. Netanyahu has faced criticism from the US for his "restructuring" the Israeli judicial system. His announced visit to China in June is partially about responding and pushing back against that criticism.

Saudi Arabia relationship with the US has also seen recent troubles, such as the Saudi assassination of Jamal Khashoggi: the US response to that action was to criticize and de-emphasize their important relationship with Saudi. Also threatening Saudi's role on the world stage at least that's what the United States asserted a few years ago. Saudi has responded with a series of steps to push back against the US. Dropping oil production, which effectively raises oil prices as it looked to many that the US was drifting into a recession, was one. This also had the net effect of assisting Russia as stronger oil prices made an Embargo of Russian oil impossible. Saudi met with Russia prior to announcing their oil cuts. Which the United States really enjoyed. Normalizing their relationship with Iran and taking meetings with China are certainly further messages to Washington. The message is you need us and our role on the world stage is not yours to threaten. Perhaps you need us as much as we need you.

Saudis Give Middle Finger To Biden with Iran Peace Deal

These were Saudi sticks. The latest action by Saudi which your question is primarily about was the carrot. Saudi and the United States agreed just the other day on the broad terms of normalizing their relationship with Israel. Now nothing is agreed to beyond the broad outline, and it's very likely nothing will be agreed to. The Biden administration is even now trying to role back any optimism about an impending agreement. However, the public announcement of progress and broad agreement represent a rapprochement with the US after some bitter last few years. The deal hammered out by Bidden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the man deemed by the U.S. to be responsible for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. That's also a message.

What does Israel think of all this? I don't think Israel likes Iran getting any achievement. So the Normalization with Saudi would not have been received well. Then again given Israel and Saudi have no official diplomatic ties, Saudi is a known player to Israel. I don't know if I would go so far as say trusted, but they are a country Israel has worked with productively in the past and one who Israel understands. That they too are an ally of the US makes them even more predictable. I think Israel is watching and ready to chime in when things get real; In the mean time Beyond minor corrections aimed at the US administration, Israel is interested in seeing what they can get from China while the party favors are still being handed out.


Israel was one of the first countries to recognise The People's Republic of China, after the communist revolution in China. They did so in 1950. This is one year after Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the republic. The USA did not do so until 1978. However, China didn't return Israel's favour until 1992 when they recognised Israel. This is four years after China recognised The State of Palestine. And in fact the PLO had opened a diplomatic office in 1965 which was expanded into a full embassy in 1974.

Given Mao Zedong's view of the communist revolution as a people fighting for their freedom it was only natural that he would view the Israel-Palestine conflict in the same lens: Palestine was fighting for its freedom after Israel was established on their land and bank-rolled by the imperial powers of the British Empire and then the USA.

In Mao's view, it wasn't a question of "undermining Iarael" but of asserting the national rights of the Palestinians which the British had also promised in the Balfour Declaration when they spoke of a "homeland" and not a state to be established in Palestine for the Jews and without "prejudice" to the rights of the Palestinians and others.

It's also worth noting that when the Zionist leadership were offered a homeland in Germany by the British war office once it was realised victory against Nazi Germany was in sight, they refused. They wanted Palestine. This would have made ethical sense in that one of the greatest criminal acts against a people - the Holocaust - was chiefly driven by Nazi Germany. It follows a principle of justice that the perpetrator of a crime pays. And not an innocent bystander. Andvin this case, a far away and inncocent bystander.

However, since China has established diplomatic links with Israel their trade ties have only grown. They are at present the second largest export market for Israel. The first obviously being the US given their strong political ties. Trade volume from Israel to China expanded from $50 million in 1992, when relations were normalised, to $5 billion in 2022.

In fact, this increasing trade - often of military technology - has been of concern to the US. In fact, in 2000 Israel cancelled the sale to China of an early warning system after being pressurised by the US - they threated to cut off their yearly aid, worth $3 billion.

Should one say that Israel "was actively trying to undermine" the USA?

Whilst the economic picture gives the lie to China "actively trying to undermine Israel", the current political stance of China on the Israel-Palestine conflict is one that is both sanctioned by the UN and the USA. That is the two-state solution. Thus it also undermines this accusation.

Of course, China is an independent political actor and has its own political principles. For example, it recognised HAMAs when it won the 2006 elections in Gaza, a recognition not given by the USA or Israel. And in 2015, it demanded that Israel not use Chinese migrant labour on building settlements in occupied Palestine. And in 2017, the then Chinese Foreign minister, Wang Yi, called the lack of "an independent [Palestinian] state" a "terrible injustice" in a meeting with the then Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki.

On the whole, I would say that China's continued insistence on the rights of the Palestinian's is proving to be a thorn in Israel's side.

Sources: Wikipedia, Foreign Ministry of The PRC and others.

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    @Obie2.0: Berlin, I read a couple of years ago, had one of the highest growths of jewish population increase. And a defeated Nazi Germany is not Nazi Germany any longer. Plus there are historical & contemporary comparisons where such possibilitors have happened: the USA, after the civil war and the emancipation of the slaves, post-aparthied South Africa, and Rwanda after the brutal genocide of the Tutsi's by the Hutus. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 2:45
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    @Obie 2.0: Whats wrong with the idea of establishing the Jewish state of Israel in land taken from Germany? And armed militarily whilst Germany is demilitarised? And this doesn't address the principle of justice that the perpetrator of a crime pays. The Palestinians were completely innocent of the Holocaust - why should they pay for the crimes of Nazi Germany? Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 2:55
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    @obie 2.0: Finally, the Jewish people weren't sauntering into a terra nullus, this was the home of people who have been living there for millenia. To push for a return for one, two or three himdred years after they were brutally dispersed by the Roman Empire makes some political sense, to say so after two thpusand years makes very little sense - unless you're backed up by two super-powers. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 2:59
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    @Obie2.0: As for the founders of Zionism desire to live in Palestine close to the Jewish holy sites, they could so as plenty of Jews did so. But there wasn't a mass rush of Jews to Palestine - they had lived in Europe for long enough to become Europeans - hell, Israel competes in Eurovision - and not chance a new life in the Middle East. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 3:06
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    @Obie 2.0: As you can see I've already noted what you had to say before you bit prematurely. As for Jews returning to their homeland not being an issue - it was very definitely an issue in Mandatory Palestine. Their were revolts in Palestine culminating in a massive revolt 1936-39 where British army and officers killed 2,000 Palestinians. I expect the Palestinians distrusted British & Zionist intentions and they were right to do so as future events show. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 3:30

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