Israeli PM Netanyahu in Beijing on a 5-day official visit to bolster economic ties

Only a few days after the Saudi king left Beijing, the Chinese capital is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived Beijing Sunday with the largest-ever business delegation.

Netanyahu met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday, followed by a meeting with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Beijing on Sunday, kicking off a five-day China visit meant to bolster economic ties with the Asian power.

“Warm welcome in China. A great honor for Israel!” he wrote on Facebook after landing in the Chinese capital.

Later, the Israeli prime minister added, “We have arrived for an official visit in China in order to mark 25 years of relations between Israel and China. We will strengthen the cooperation between our countries.”

Before taking off from Israel, Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion International Airport, “Israel is a very sought-after nation, as you can tell from my recent visits to Washington, Moscow and many other countries, and now China.”

In a pre-trip statement released by his office, Netanyahu said, “We will continue the talks on establishing a free trade agreement between China and Israel and we will hold the third joint Israel-China innovation conference. Of course we are continuing to develop new markets and to open new markets for the Israeli economy.”

The prime minister’s traveling entourage included Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.

While in China, Netanyahu will hold meetings with President Xi Jiping and Premier Li Keqiang, as well as top business leaders.

The focus of the trip, according to Netanyahu’s office, is the “continued strengthening of economic cooperation with the Chinese government — increased Israeli exports to China, attracting Chinese investments in Israel, and increased industrial and research cooperation between Chinese and Israeli companies.”

Netanyahu last visited China in May 2013.

According to an analysis published by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Israel-China ties “embody significant growth potential for the Israeli economy that must be maximized while taking every precaution to preserve Israel’s strategic relationship with the United States.”

“The intention during Netanyahu’s upcoming visit is to define the relations between Israel and China as a ‘comprehensive innovative partnership,’ a definition expressing both sides’ understanding of the center of gravity of their relations,” the analysis — authored by Matan Vilnai, Assaf Orion and Galia Lavi — went on to say. “The two have clearly agreed to avoid calling the partnership ‘strategic,’ as in the background are Israel’s relationship with the United States and China’s relationship with other Middle East states.”