Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday predicted an exponential increase in Israel’s diplomatic ties with China.
"I think we've barely scratched the surface of Israeli-Chinese relations. I have no doubt that in coming years we'll see a dramatic expansion of these ties," Netanyahu said at a special event marking 20 years since the two nations forged relations.
Chinese and Israeli diplomats attended the gathering, held at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu reflected on the strong traditions of both countries, saying, "Israel and China are a successful combination because we are peoples rooted in glorious traditions who also embrace the future. The rise of modern China is one of the most important events of our time, as is the rise of modern Israel. We will never forget the good will of the Chinese people who provided shelter for persecuted Jews in the darkest hours."
“I think we can also work together to address the challenges of securing Middle East peace," Netanyahu added. Stressing the importance of ties between the nations, Netanyahu said, "We are committed to expanding them quickly in a variety of fields. To this end, I have issued a sweeping directive to approve any invitation to visit China. We are also launching a project that will bring to Israel 250 Chinese students a year. A large number of Israelis have already begun to study Chinese."
Netanyahu addressed the looming crisis with Iran, saying, "I was pleased to hear that China has begun to reduce oil purchases from Iran. I appreciate China's need to ensure a regular supply of sources of energy in order to continue its impressive growth. I believe that it is possible to replace Iranian oil and I hope that the Chinese leadership will join the European countries and quickly act to completely halt purchases of Iranian oil."
"Millennia-old societies provide a strong basis for future cooperation in many fields,” he said. “I believe that Israel and China can act together to ensure peace in the Middle East."
Netanyahu concluded by wishing the Chinese people a "Happy Year of the Dragon."
The Israeli government estimates bilateral trade with China at $8 billion in 2011, up from $6.7 billion in 2010.