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Israel, China Play ‘ping Pong’ Under the Table

Israel and the Peoples Republic of China, separated geographically by the Asian continent and worlds apart politically, both show interest in establishing contact, political observers here said today. But their moves in that direction so far have been carried out surreptitiously as was reflected in a cartoon in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today which showed Israelis and Chinese playing ping-pong under a table. Nevertheless, Peking has put out feelers toward Jerusalem which it has been denouncing for two decades as “an imperialist lackey.” The Chinese Embassy in Paris vigorously denied that conversations were held there between Chinese diplomats and the Paris representative of Israel’s leftist labor Mapam faction. Elf San-Gal, so reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Tuesday. Mapam is a member of the coalition government. Ben-Gal subsequently told newsmen not to take the denial too seriously. “I was sitting in the Embassy when they drafted it,” he said.

The Israeli Government has come up with denials of its own. The Foreign Ministry stated Tuesday that during the recent visit of Rumania’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gheorghe Macovescu, relations between Israel and China were not mentioned. The Mapam newspaper Al Hamishmar recalled the next day that Rumania is Peking’s best friend among the Eastern European Communist bloc and said that only the Macovescu visit to Jerusalem made possible the Paris talks with Ben-Gal. According to political circles here, the Chinese want to start talking to Israel for motives that are not entirely clear but which should be viewed against the background of China’s campaign to rebuild its relations with the rest of the world, Israel for its part, welcomes every gesture by China if only to put an end to the constant stream of anti-Israel incitement pouring out of Peking and the indiscriminate support China gives the Arab states. Trade with China might be a long term factor but as it stands now it is so insignificant that it is often omitted from official statistics. According to some observers, rumors and reports of alleged Israeli contacts with Soviet or Chinese representatives could cause the Arabs to realize that both of those powers might be weighing a change in their attitudes on Middle East issues.

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