A dispute on Jerusalem between the Chinese and the Arab delegation, attending the fourth session of the Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab Cooperation Forum in the port city of Tianjin. The dispute erupted after Chinese officials refused to sign a joint document with the delegation, which includes the Arab Foreign Ministers, East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. According to Al Jazeera's correspondent in China, Ezzat Shahrour that the Arab delegation was surprised at the last minute when Chinese officials refused to sign the document, despite all the efforts that have been made at the last minute in order to contain the situation.Let's be clear about what happened here: the Chinese delegation to the China-Arab Cooperation Forum refused to sign a worthless piece of paper affirming Arab claims to East Jerusalem. Had the Chinese done so, at most they could expect a weak protest from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, before the matter was hushed up by senior Israeli officials in the interest of maintaining fragile bilateral relations. On the other hand, the refusal to sign the document, a meaningless communique of no practical significance, deals a significant and unexpected blow to Arab confidence in China's support for their claims.
Indeed, the new Chinese position can be said to be more pro-Israel on the subject of Jerusalem than that of much of Europe, the President of the United States and the supposed "international consensus", which now excludes the world's most populous country and soon largest economy. For decades, the international community and its key Western members have generally envisioned and endorsed a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Even countries which are strong Israeli allies pay routine lip service to Arab demands for the city by signing on to weak, non-binding pro-Arab political statements in the context of improving economic or other relations with Arab countries. This is generally understood and quietly accepted by the Israelis as a type of "throw a bone" diplomacy that is no cause for concern. European nations with limited means naturally cannot be expected to act against their economic self-interest in dismissing Arab demands and alienating Arab governments and consumers, especially when meaningless gestures are involved.
In contrast, China is a country of sufficient size and strength that its political support and large consumer market are perhaps more vital to the Arabs than the reverse. Furthermore, any Arab actions to sanction or condemn the Chinese would merely strain their bilateral diplomacy, and at a time that the Sunni Arab states are wooing the Chinese for support on the much more pressing issue of Iran's nuclear program.
[The al Jazeera] correspondent pointed out that Israel had succeeded over the past years to weave a network of relations with China and the wide range covering all areas, and reflect the cooperation between the two parties in China to change its position gradually from the Palestinian cause.That an emerging global power has quietly been maneuvered out of a multi-generational support for extremist pro-Arab policies on an issue of such importance as the status of East Jerusalem is a significant victory for Israel's generally lackluster, if not altogether dismal international diplomacy. It would appear that Israel's much purported international isolation is not nearly as complete as it has been made out to be. China's turnaround raises the achievement bar for Israeli diplomats, provides a way forward for pro-Israel advocacy, and lays the foundation for a new international consensus - one not beholden to petulant, self-entitled Arab claims on Jerusalem.