Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed his country’s right to self-defense after China expressed concern over airstrikes on Syria attributed to the Jewish state.
Netanyahu visited a Shanghai synagogue and thanked China for sheltering Jews during World War II, saying such aid is no longer needed. He flew into Shanghai yesterday and meets Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing tomorrow.
“Today we have a state of our own, an army of our own,” Netanyahu said at the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, which once served 30,000 Jewish refugees who found shelter in the city during the war. “We need not beg to be saved. We can defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu didn’t mention Syria and declined to answer questions about the airstrikes while traveling to Shanghai yesterday. Syria threatened retaliation after an aerial strike on the outskirts of Damascus on May 5 and another two days earlier.
The airstrikes prompted China to call for restraint. Chinese leaders have resisted U.S.-led efforts to unite world powers against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“China is gravely concerned about the issue and calls for the involved parties to remain restrained and avoid any actions that might escalate the tension,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing yesterday.
Israeli officials who asked not to be identified said the attacks were meant to prevent advanced Iranian weapons from reaching Lebanon’s anti-Israel Hezbollah militia, rather than to weaken the Assad regime, The Associated Press reported.
Netanyahu is in China until May 10 on a trip that’s meant to open the Chinese market to Israeli companies and press for tougher action over Syria and on Iran’s disputed nuclear program. The Israeli leader has set a goal of bringing trade with China to $10 billion within three years, from about $8 billion today.
Netanyahu’s arrival in Shanghai yesterday coincided with a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Beijing the same day. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace negotiations that have been stalled since 2010.
Abbas said he was not scheduled to meet with Netanyahu in China. “The Chinese side said it would convey our concerns to the Israeli side, evaluate the consensus we share with Israel, and continue paying attention to the Palestinian issue,” Abbas said in an interview today in the China Daily.
Netanyahu focused on economic issues today, pressing his case for Israeli business in a visit with executives of Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co., China’s second-largest drugs-distribution company.
“We want to invest in the Israeli pharmaceutical industry and its R&D,” Shanghai Pharma Chairman Zhou Jie said, citing Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. as an example of Israel’s innovative drugs industry.
“We both need R&D. We lack scale. Together we can bring both R&D and scale,” Netanyahu replied.