Walking the Fine Line
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently visited China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. Last year, the Chinese Communist Party leader promised Abbas his commitment to “work for an early, just, and durable solution to the Palestinian issue.”
Xi is undoubtedly flexing his muscles in the region to boost Beijing’s credentials on the world stage. He recently scored a big win after negotiating a peace deal between two sworn Middle East enemies: Saudi Arabia and Iran. One Palestinian Authority source said, “Xi is meeting with lots of Arab leaders because he knows they are not happy with the U.S. taking a back seat in the region.”
Before Xi wooed Abbas to Beijing, China had already invested $19 billion in Israel from 2007 to 2020. China’s interest in Israel’s burgeoning tech industry has placed the “Startup Nation” at the center of the U.S.-China rivalry, forcing Jerusalem to choose sides.
In 2022, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his determination to strengthen Israel’s economic relationship with China and vowed he would “continue to work with China” while “protect[ing] our national interests.”
In his autobiography, Bibi: My Story, Netanyahu confessed to walking “a fine line” in his ambition to partner with China, saying he “wanted to open the enormous Chinese market to Israel and also lure Chinese investments to Israel.” Netanyahu’s willingness to deepen ties with his neighbors to the east was criticized by the United States, Israel’s ally to the west.
Chinese investments in Israel have significantly declined; and Israeli exports to China have stalled, while Chinese exports to Israel continue to rise. Netanyahu wrote that he seeks to maintain ties with China while preserving the “solemn commitment to our great ally the United States.”
Israel faces palpable pressure as the temperature continues to rise between the United States and China. Situated in far west Asia, Israel is located right at the divide of the Eastern and Western worlds. The United States and China are thousands of miles from the Holy Land, yet Israel is swept up in their international tug-of-war for global dominion.
Walking a fine line has long been Israel’s forte. In 332 BC, Israel was caught between Persia and Greece, two empires battling for world domination. In 200 BC, the Jewish people were plunged into the territorial ambitions of the Ptolemies and Seleucids, two Greek kingdoms that clashed at Caesarea Philippi. In the 11th and 12th centuries AD, the Muslims and Crusaders fought for sovereignty over the Holy Land, leaving the Jewish people trapped between two evils.
China is taking advantage of the leadership vacuum in the Middle East, opened by the Biden administration’s 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. Israel’s current position between the East and West is reminiscent of past predicaments, being forced to choose sides, uncertain of the future.
Yet Scripture reveals the future clearly. The prophet Daniel saw the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. God bestowed on Him “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).
God has always preserved Israel and the Jewish people as they have walked the fine line between contentious kingdoms. But one day, the kingdoms of Earth will give way to God’s Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed (2:44). The King of Israel, Jesus the Messiah, will rule from Jerusalem and “have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8).
At that time, Israel will no longer be stuck in the middle, walking the fine line between Gentile nations. God will exalt Israel above all others and make it “the head and not the tail” (Dt. 28:13).