The Debate

India and China Back Unified Palestinian Government

The two Asian giants have ignored Israeli warnings and expressed support for the Hamas-Fatah unity government.

India and China Back Unified Palestinian Government
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

India and China have issued statements of support for the new Palestinian unity government which comprises the rival factions of Hamas and Fatah. The announcements from both countries came a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a cabinet. The unity government is controversial because Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. Hamas is an Islamist group and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Fatah meanwhile focuses primarily on Palestinian nationalism within a secular framework. The two groups had been engaged in conflict for years but recently reconciled in April 2014. Accordingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied world powers to refrain from recognizing the new Palestinian unity government.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement welcoming the new Palestinian unity government on June 3. “We believe Palestine’s internal reconciliation will strengthen the solidarity of the Palestinian people, and promote the founding of an independent state for Palestinians and peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, according to Xinhua. “China believes peaceful negotiation is the only way to realize Palestine-Israel peace,” he added. The Chinese foreign ministry additionally called for the international community to support a negotiated solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

On Tuesday, India too welcomed the new unity government. According to the Press Trust of India, the Indian government expressed hope that the new Palestinian government “would be able to resume talks with Israel in a pragmatic and constructive spirit to find a mutually acceptable political solution to the decades-old issue.” “India supports the formation of the Unity Government of Fatah and Hamas, led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah,” a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson reportedly said. “This is in keeping with India’s stance of supporting the reconciliation efforts between the West Bank and Gaza, key to a sustainable Palestinian State.” The Indian ministry also clarified that it expected the unity government to uphold the Palestinian Authority’s prior obligations from earlier peace talks, stating that “India has consistently supported a peaceful and negotiated solution between Palestine and Israel, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side and at peace with Israel, within secured and recognized borders.”

It remains to be seen how Israel’s Likud government will react to the statements of support from India and China for the unity government. “I call on all responsible elements in the international community not to rush to recognize a Palestinian government which has Hamas as part of it and which is dependent on Hamas,” Netanyahu told his cabinet. Still, Israel has important relations with both India and China. India and Israel cooperate on defense and security matters. Additionally, India’s Hindu nationalists — who recently formed a government there — are generally supportive of Israel’s status as a Jewish state and laud Israeli nationalism. The Narendra Modi government’s willingness to immediately issue a statement in support of the Palestinian unity government was thus unexpected. China also has developed its relations with Israel considerably since the two states established diplomatic relations in 1992. The two countries have a burgeoning economic partnership and Israel exports military technology to China.