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This is what it's like to be "played" by the "shrewd".

China (& India) desperately need oil they can't harvest at home. They get this vital energy from Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. They also represent almost 40% of the world's population and are outmaneuvering Israel.


Instead, the US should be working with China & Putin to curtail Iran's terrorist ambitions. How? It's not easy...but there's little alternative. Wrap things up in the Ukraine, offer US oil to China as a backstop and work to threaten Iran's oil revenues. Ergo, China wants stability in the Middle East, so does Saudi Arabia and with our help, they can credibly threaten to cut off Iran's access to money. Otherwise, there's no reason for them to stop financing terrorism (whether Hamas survives or not). Remember, terrorists can't buy the expensive weaponry being used against Israel without a wealthy sponsor.


Hamas can easily be replaced. Iran has a long list of substitutes ready to go into the game.


China and Russia Claim Moral High Ground Over Palestinian Deaths

The U.S. rivals are tapping outrage over Israel’s war in Gaza to gain support in the developing world

Large parts of Gaza City have been destroyed since the start of Israel’s war on Hamas.


By Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ

Updated Nov. 8, 2023


DUBAI—The bloody war in Gaza is providing America’s main geopolitical rivals China and Russia with a valuable opportunity to garner support around the world, enabling the two repressive autocracies to harness a wave of sympathy for the Palestinians and to position themselves as champions of humanitarian values and peace.


While both Moscow and Beijing maintained close relations with Israel for decades—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even used billboards of himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin during last year’s election—the two powers have pointedly declined to criticize Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war.


Distancing themselves from Israel, Russia and China have since focused on framing the war as part of a global power struggle against the U.S., with Israel reduced to little more than Washington’s regional pawn.


Putin, whose forces have flattened several Ukrainian cities, said in an address last week that his “fists clench and eyes tear up” as he watches the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Russian soldiers in Ukraine are fighting the same American “root of evil,” he said, and their battles “will decide the fate of Russia, and of the entire world, including the future of the Palestinian people.”


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After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel wouldn’t consider any temporary cease-fire without the return of the hostages held by Hamas. WSJ’s Vivian Salama reported from Israel. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli Press Office

China’s rhetoric has been more subdued, with Xi Jinping avoiding public comments on the Middle East since the conflict erupted. Chinese state media, however, has been filled with commentary blasting U.S. “hypocrisy” and “warmongering” in the Middle East, and contrasting it with Beijing’s demands for an immediate cease-fire and Palestinian statehood.


China has said that its position on the Palestinian issue is the same as Russia’s and the two nations voted together at the United Nations Security Council last month to veto a U.S.-sponsored resolution on the crisis.


“Countries should uphold the moral conscience, rather than clinging on to geopolitical calculations, let alone double standards,” China’s U.N. envoy Zhang Jun said in a veiled reference to the U.S. “China will continue to stand on the side of international fairness and justice, on the side of international law, and on the side of the legitimate aspirations of the Arab and Islamic world.”


The predicament in the Middle East should lead Washington to abandon its longstanding hostile attitude to China, added Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization think tank in Beijing and a former government adviser.


“They should really not treat China as a rival…They’re having a challenge with the Russian war in Ukraine, now they will have another challenge with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They should not have a challenge with China, too,” he said. “They should treat China as a partner, as a peacemaker, and should cooperate with China on these global issues.”


Hamas has been appreciative of such signaling. Khaled Meshaal, one of the group’s main leaders, said in a recent TV appearance that Hamas seeks “cooperation with great powers China and Russia.” He added that Russia has benefited from the Oct. 7 attack because it has diverted American attention from Ukraine and that China may be inspired by Hamas’s raid for its own plans to capture Taiwan. Unlike Russia and China, the U.S. and most other Western nations consider Hamas, whose members killed some 1,400 Israelis and took hundreds more hostage on Oct. 7, a terrorist organization.


Despite the rhetoric, neither Russia nor China has the capacity, or desire, to get actively involved in the Middle East at a time when the U.S. is returning in force to the region, deploying three aircraft carrier groups and significant aircraft and air defense assets to protect its partners and allies. But the diplomatic posturing alone is boosting their soft power across the developing world, where outrage over the thousands of civilian casualties caused by the Israeli bombing of Gaza has mounted for weeks. Countries that have recalled ambassadors from Israel in protest include faraway Colombia, Chile and South Africa. Bolivia has severed diplomatic ties with Israel altogether.


“For China, to be supportive of the Palestinian cause will serve the purpose of China uniting with the developing world at a global level,” said Chinese foreign policy expert Li Mingjiang at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. “Great-power politics is another factor. China senses a political opportunity to side with the majority of the countries of the world in opposition to the American position.”


Russia, subjected to Western sanctions and global criticism for its invasion of Ukraine, is even more eager to change the narrative and pierce its own isolation.


“Choosing a policy that brings Russia closer to the Arab world is understandable. The Global South nowadays is important for Moscow because of the situation around Ukraine,” said Nikolay Kozhanov, a former Russian diplomat in Tehran who’s currently a professor at Qatar University. “Russia realizes that the events in Gaza are pushing the Global South away from the West, away from the United States and could make its attitudes more welcoming to Moscow.”


Russia’s record, in Ukraine and elsewhere, is littered with atrocities. Putin began his presidency in 2000 by flattening Grozny, the capital of the then-rebellious Muslim republic of Chechnya. In Syria, a Russian bombing campaign reduced to rubble much of the city of Aleppo in 2016. And in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which the Russian air force could bomb without fear of air defenses, at least 25,000 Ukrainian civilians were killed during the monthslong Russian siege last year, according to municipal officials. The true toll may never be known because the U.N. and other independent organizations were never given access to Mariupol and the victims were routinely bulldozed into the rubble or buried in mass graves.


China, meanwhile, incarcerated upward of a million Muslims from its western Xinjiang region—equivalent to the Gaza Strip’s entire adult population—in internment camps, according to American officials. China described these camps as providing vocational opportunities and most major Muslim nations have refrained from criticizing its repressive policies in Xinjiang.


“That particular issue doesn’t resonate in the ‘Muslim world’ the same way that the Palestinian issue does,” said Neysun Mahboubi, director of the Penn Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. As the war in Ukraine damages Russia’s global appeal, and as America is criticized for its support of Israel, there “is an opportunity for China to shape an image of being a responsible world power, and more so than its competitors, including the United States,” he said.


For both Russia and China, involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a long history. The Soviet Union, which viewed Arab monarchies as proxies of Western imperialism, voted for the Jewish state’s creation at the U.N. General Assembly in 1947 and was the first nation to recognize Israel once it proclaimed independence the following year. It also helped ensure its survival by getting Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia to ship weapons. But Moscow severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 and quickly became a major military supporter of its Arab foes. Communist China had refused to recognize Israel altogether.


It was only after the end of the Cold War that Russia and China opened embassies in Tel Aviv. Relations quickly expanded as hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews settled in Israel and the country also became an important conduit of Western technologies to China. In 2018, Netanyahu wore the St. George’s ribbon, a symbol of Russian military glory that has also become a sign of support for Russian aggression in Ukraine, during a visit with Putin in Moscow. This summer, amid tensions with the Biden administration over planned judicial reforms, Netanyahu posted a photo of himself holding a book by Xi that had been gifted by the Chinese ambassador, a move that raised eyebrows in Washington.



President Biden’s administration has supported Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The current crisis, and the support provided by the Biden administration so far, makes it evident that only a solid alliance with the U.S. can protect Israel, said Tuvia Gering, a China expert at the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University.


“There is no alternative for Israel,” he said. “China is not neutral. It’s against Israel and is providing wind to the sails of those who wish to annihilate us. It’s been indifferent to our suffering and it is exploiting it for its own geopolitical gains.”


For Putin, who used to value Israel’s neutrality and refusal to join Western sanctions over Ukraine, the new frost with Israel can be explained in part by the change in Russia’s own demographics. Roughly one-quarter of Russia’s population is now estimated to be Muslim, a share that keeps rising because of higher birthrates in Muslim areas and mass migration from Central Asia.


The bloodshed in Gaza has already sparked unrest in several Muslim republics of the northern Caucasus. In late October, as rumors spread that the region’s Jews who had emigrated to Israel would be coming back as refugees, local vigilante groups raided hotels looking for Jewish guests and, on Oct. 29, stormed the international airport of Makhachkala after a scheduled flight from Tel Aviv landed there, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Allahu akbar.” Russian authorities have since made some 200 arrests.


An even more important factor, however, is Putin’s drive to restore Soviet-era norms, an ideological campaign that also involves rewriting schoolbooks, erecting monuments to Stalin, and dismantling whatever remains of Russia’s democratic institutions. That has also meant a rapprochement with Soviet-era allies, such as North Korea.


“It’s all part of Russia’s overall slide back to Soviet times, to Soviet thinking, to Soviet traditions,” said former Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who now lives in the West. “This is in line with the overall neo-Soviet policy of confrontation with the West. And now, Israel’s turn has come.”


Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

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