For many years Moshe Sharett, Israel’s first foreign minister, has been perceived as having opposed, delayed, and blocked Israel’s diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, because of his hesitation, formalism, hostility to Communism, and submission to US pressure. In fact, since the 1930s and 1940s Sharett was interested in forming relations with China, not just because of its importance but also because of his concern about the fate of the Jewish communities there, especially the refugees who had escaped from Europe in those years. Unlike the conventional wisdom, it was Sharett who played the leading role in promoting Israel’s relations with Asia. He was behind the recognition of China in January 1950, three months after its proclamation—a brave decision given the fact that Israel was the first country in the Middle East (and the seventh in the world if we discount the Soviet Bloc countries). He later admitted that it was a mistake not to follow the recognition with establishing diplomatic relations immediately. Six months later the war in Korea broke out and everything changed. Sharett became more reserved in his attitude toward the PRC, bearing in mind the importance of the US for Israel. Nonetheless, he never abandoned the idea of establishing relations with China; he not only had a more comprehensive perspective on Israel’s foreign relations but also was somewhat skeptical about China’s interest in relations with Israel. Although he could not have known it, he was right, since by 1954 China had opted for relations with Arab and Islamic countries—inevitably at Israel’s expense. When he was practically forced to offer Beijing diplomatic relations in late May 1955, it was too late.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 102-130
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.