Netanyahu insists ‘no substitute’ for US after receiving China visit invitation

PMO says Washington informed about invitation from Beijing a month ago, stresses 'security and intelligence cooperation between US, Israel at an all-time high'; national security expert says invitation 'ill-timed' amid growing US-China tensions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of the U.S. Congress and informed them that he has been invited for a visit to China, the Prime Minister's Office said on Tuesday.
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"The upcoming visit will mark Prime Minister Netanyahu's fourth visit to China, and the American administration was informed about it a month ago," a statement read.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Beijing, China, March 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Beijing, China, March 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Beijing, China, March 2017
(Photo: gettyimages)
"Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear to Congress members that the security and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel is at an all-time high, emphasizing that the United States will always be Israel's essential ally with no substitute."
Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman, director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), argued following the announcement that "the visit will not prompt the White House to invite Netanyahu; on the contrary, it will cause irritation. Therefore, tactically speaking, it is ill-timed."
"If there's one thing that bothers the American administration, it's… Israeli attempts to juggle between the United States and its rivals, primarily China. And today, as the U.S. is locked in a global standoff with China, it is a poor timing both strategically and tactically."
The former IDF intelligence chief added that, "the special relationship with the United States is at risk. There's not much we can do to benefit, but we can certainly harm. This act is a kind of negative accelerator."
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Netanyahu and Biden
Netanyahu and Biden
Netanyahu and Biden
(Photo: EPA, Yonatan Sindel)
An invitation to the White House has been a sensitive issue for Netanyahu in recent months. Despite returning to power six months ago, he is yet to receive the customary invitation extended to every newly elected Israeli leader.
A senior U.S. official told Ynet that Netanyahu will be invited eventually, but the invitation has been delayed due to the challenges posed by Likud chairman’s far-right government, which is frequently entangled in scandals, expansion of settlement construction and the increase in settler violence.
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