Netanyahu 'sending message' to Joe Biden with China ambassador photo and planned meeting with Xi Jinping
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accused on Wednesday of trying to "send a message" to US President Joe Biden by issuing a photo of himself with the Chinese ambassador and four signed copies of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s autobiography.
The books were presented as a gift from the Chinese embassy to Netanyahu during a meeting with the ambassador.
Some commentators have claimed the timing of the meeting, as well as the social media ceremony made out of it by Netanyahu's office, is a not-so-subtle message to Biden after the US president objected to Netanyahu's ramming through of his controversial judicial overhaul bill in the Knesset.
The move by Netanyahu coincides with reports in the Israeli media of "advanced contacts" between Israel and China on Netanyahu meeting Xi Jinping in the immediate future.
Biden and Netanyahu have yet to meet, despite the Israeli prime minister being 7 months into his current term in office. Though Netanyahu announced that Biden had invited him to the White House, the Biden administration later played down the idea.
President of China Xi Jinping sent an autographed copy of his book to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via China's ambassador to Israel. pic.twitter.com/ImPe6BW6ro— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 26, 2023
'Other diplomatic options'
It is historically typical for US presidents to meet with Israeli prime ministers as a priority, yet there have been alleged strained relations between the Biden administration and the far-right coalition government headed by Netanyahu.
Biden has criticised the Israeli government directly for its plans to overhaul the Israeli judicial system, while other members of the Biden administration, such as vice president Kamala Harris, have also voiced opinions against Netanyahu’s policies.
The US has also taken a tougher rhetorical line on Tel Aviv’s intransigence over settlement building and its violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Israeli media has posited that the distance Biden has put between himself and the current Israeli government has prompted Netanyahu to show that he has other diplomatic options.
The Israeli prime minister’s office has downplayed the image, claiming it was merely part of an "interesting diplomatic update" and was not intended as a message to the US.