China says it will not allow its builders work as part of a bilateral labor deal with Israel in settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories, reports say.
According to a Sunday report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Beijing is in talks with Tel Aviv to send thousands of migrant builders to Israel.
A senior Israeli official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the news on Monday, saying, “For the moment, the talks are stumbling over several problems, including the employment of these immigrants in settlements in Judea and Samaria,” a reference to the West Bank.
“Beijing is demanding that we ensure there are no workers in this region,” he told AFP.
The Israeli official further said that China’s decision “is more likely linked to Beijing’s diplomatic position that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and opposes Israel’s presence” on the occupied Palestinian territories.
There has been no immediate comment from China.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to accelerate settlement construction, which is seen as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of West Bank and East al-Quds (East Jerusalem) in 1967.
Also on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek slammed Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian lands, saying such projects are torpedoing peace hopes with the Palestinians.
In an interview with an Israeli news site, Zaoralek said his country might find it increasingly difficult to maintain its pro-Israel stance if Tel Aviv fails to take steps toward establishing a Palestinian state.
The top Czech diplomat also warned that Israel is likely to suffer international isolation if it does not change its policies toward the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.