China-Israel ties alarm human rights advocates / Cooperating in commerce, military areas (AP) Associated Press) By Josef Federman and Christopher Bodeen JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/30/12)
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JERUSALEM — After a prolonged chill, security relations between
Israel and China are warming up.
With Israel offering much-needed technical expertise and China
representing a huge new market and influential voice in the
international debate over Iran’s nuclear program, the two nations
have stepped up military cooperation as they patch up a rift caused
by a pair of arms deals scuttled by the U.S.
The improved ties have been highlighted by last week’s visit to
Beijing by Israel’s military chief and a training mission to Israel
by the Chinese paramilitary force that, among other things, polices
the restive Tibetan and Muslim Uighur regions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to China in
the coming weeks.
After their meeting last week, both China’s chief of staff, Gen. Chen
Bingde, and his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, hailed the
growing ties and held out the possibility of even closer military
Gen. Chen told the official China Daily that China “attaches
importance to the ties with the Israeli military and is willing to
make concerted efforts with the Israeli side to deepen pragmatic
In a statement released by the Israeli military, Gen. Gantz mentioned
a commitment to developing the relationship, including “joint courses
that are scheduled to take place.” It did not elaborate.
Such comments are a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago,
when ties deteriorated after the failed arms deals.
Israel and China est ablished diplomatic relations in 1992, and the
two countries traded military technology for nearly a decade. Some
military analysts believe that Israel helped China develop its J-10
fighter plane during the 1990s, a claim that both countries have
These ties suffered a blow in 2000, when the U.S. pressured Israel to
cancel the sale of a sophisticated radar system to China, fearing it
could alter the balance of power with Taiwan. The cancellation
infuriated China, cost Israel hundreds of millions of dollars, and
Then, in 2005, the U.S. persuaded Israel not to service spare parts
for unmanned aircraft drones already sold to China, concerned that it
would upgrade China’s airborne anti-radar capability. Israeli
officials say that Israel has since halted weapons sales to China.
But in recent months, relations have begun to improve.
Last June, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to China.
Gen. Chen, the Chinese military chief, visited Israel in August, and
in December, Israel’s paramilitary Border Police unit hosted a
delegation from the People´s Armed Police.
During the monthlong course, “cadets were taught a variety of
information, with an emphasis on fighting terror, dealing with
disturbances, self-defense, open-field combat and more,” according to
an Israeli police statement. It was the first such exercise, police
This newfound cooperation has raised concerns among human rights
Use of forces
Israel’s Border Police serve on the front lines of anti-Israel
demonstrations in the West Bank and have been accused of using
excessive force dispersing crowds. It denies the allegations.
The People´s Armed Police, or PAP, also has been accused of using
excessive force, particularly in Tibet, a western region where the
indigenous Buddhist population has pushed for independence.
Policing Tibet is a small part of a challenging mission. Believed to
have as many as 1 million members, the PAP is responsible for
asserting government control over a rapidly changing society beset by
soaring numbers of protests, strikes and ethnic unrest by Tibetans
and Muslim Uighurs on China’s Central Asian frontier.
Set up in the early 1980s to take over domestic security from the
armed forces, the PAP has been derided for much of its history as
undisciplined. The units proved unfit to handle the Tiananmen Square
democracy demonstrations in 1989, forcing the Communist Party to call
in the People’s Liberation Army.
In the past decade, the government has launched a full-force upgrade.
It now has rapid-response, counterterrorism, anti-hijacking and other
Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said PAP
units engaged in “widespread abuses” in putting down a mass Tibetan
uprising in 2008, using live ammunition against unarmed protesters,
disappearances and other acts of disproportionate brutality.
He said the Israeli training “must include a human rights component,
such as the principle of proportionate use of force.”
Israeli officials rejected any notion of wrongdoing, saying that all
cooperation was “transparent” and done with the full knowledge of the
U.S. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue.
The Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for
According to Israeli diplomats and analysts, the interests on both
sides are clear. Israel has a strong interest in getting closer to a
rising world power, while China is interested in Israeli military and
“I’m sure Israel does whatever it can to let the Chinese know that
despite limitations on military transfers, Israel still has a strong
will to attain good relations,” said Yoram Evron, a China expert at
Haifa University and the Institute for National Security Studies, a
Tel Aviv think tank.
He said he believes the warming ties were initiated by the Chinese,
who were caught off guard by the Arab Spring protests convulsing the
region in the past year and a half.
“Due to the Arab Spring, China may have the impression, a stronger
impression than before, that Israel is relatively stable compared
with other players in the region,” he said.
An Israeli diplomat involved in Asian affairs said the security ties
are part of a larger blossoming of relations.
China is now Israel’s third-largest trade partner, after the European
Union and United States. Bilateral trade exceeded $8 billion last
year, roughly 20 percent higher than the previous year.
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