Palace of Heavenly Purity, Forbidden City (Source: Wikipedia)
In a recent column, Ha'aretz writer Aluf Benn remarks that
The immediate response of many Israelis to the news that their prime minister is visiting China is "what is he looking for there?" The cynics among them point to the circumstances and the timing and perceive Ehud Olmert's visit to Beijing as a convenient escape from the oppressive problems facing him at home ...As usual, Benn has hit the nail right on the head. Although there is plenty of appreciation for China's importance in the Israeli business world and parts of the academy (engineering and the sciences), the political sector, the pundits and opinion-makers of the country are hopelessly fixated on Europe and the United States. It is an arrogance toward the east (far and near) born of provincialism.
While the whole world understands that "China's economic growth is the main international story of the past decade," Israeli policymakers seem clueless about the geopolitical and economic changes that will result from it:
Israel has watched all these developments from a distance. Immersed in itself and in the conflict with the Palestinians, the Israeli leadership is interested only in what is thought and said about it in Washington, and to a lesser but increasing degree, in Europe as well.Israel must start paying attention to what countries like China and Vietnam as well as the more established economic powerhouses of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore think about it. Israelis have to start communicating with the rest of the world - preferably through their languages and cultures. It must also stop wasting time and start solving the problems that are likely to present insurmountable obstacles to long-term growth. A withdrawal from the West Bank and even the Golan, if that is what it takes, is a small price to pay for a place in the world order 20 years from now.