Israel's ties with China

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo flew to Israel last Wednesday to personally talk to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his developing ties with the international thug, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Pompeo expressed  concern that Israel is permitting China the rights to build the largest water desalination plant in the world off Israel's southern border — the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Water International is one of two companies to have reached the final stage of the tender to build the Sorek 2 water desalination plant.

Pompeo arrives in Israel, May 13, 2020 (YouTube screen grab).

As reported by the Middle East online journal Al-Monitor, the facility, known as Sorek 2, will produce 200 million cubic meters of drinking water per year, raising the total water processed in Israeli desalination plants to 786 million cubic meters per year.  This amounts to some 85% of all domestic and municipal consumption per year. The tender is worth an estimated $1.5 billion.  Whichever company wins it will operate the facility for 25 years.

The U.S. has asked Jerusalem to reconsider Hutchison's participation in the bidding, even though it has already reached the final stage of the tender.  Yet the Trump administration should not be surprised that Israel seeks only to profit from the tyrannical Chinese regime, despite the latter's human rights violations.

Previous Israeli-Chinese Transactions

This is not be the first would-be business deal the Israelis do with Beijing as it has grown to become Israel's second-largest trading partner, after the U.S. Chinese firms.  In fact, the CCP has been responsible for expanding the Mediterranean port in Ashdod and constructing major transportation systems, including the Tel Aviv light rail system and the Carmel tunnels.

•   In April, the Foreign Ministry said it had signed a deal with Chinese company BGI to have the firm send lab equipment to Israel, allowing for conducting some 12,000 tests per day for the coronavirus.

   In 2018, China imported more than $4.6 billion of Israeli goods while exporting to Israel goods worth more than $10.9 billion.  These numbers are up dramatically from 1992, when Chinese goods imports totaled $38.7 million and exports $12.8 million.

•   In 2017, Netanyahu told General Secretary Xi Jinping that the Jewish state is a "perfect partner" for China as it seeks to grow its high-tech sector.  He even called Chinese-Israeli relations "a marriage made in heaven" after signing certain bilateral agreements identifying areas for increased cooperation in air pollution control, waste management, environmental monitoring, water conservation and purification, and hi-tech fields.

•   Also in 2017, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel exported to China 11.4 billion shekels ($3.1 billion at current exchange rates) of goods, not counting diamonds.  Imports from Beijing were over double that.

American Apprehension

The Chinese regime has amassed a portfolio from mines and farmland in Africa, Australia, and Latin America to ports and infrastructure in Europe to insurance, hi-tech, chemicals, and agribusiness companies wherever it can.  Logically, the last thing Washington wants is for its superpower rival to have such an immense and booming presence in the Middle East that would potentially lessen American influence in the region.

A key worry is the location of the planned desalination facility.  It is situated next to the Palmahim Airbase — an Israeli military facility and spaceport located near the cities of Rishon LeZion and Yavne — where American troops are stationed, and not far from the Nahal Sorek Nuclear Research Center.  Amos Harel of Haaretz claimed in 2019 that the head of the Defense Ministry's security authority, Nir Ben-Moshe, sent a letter to the Finance and Energy Ministries in which he expressed sharp opposition to the decision to allow Hutchison to participate in the tender.

Another point of concern, according to Lee Branstetter, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, is "that artificial intelligence capabilities acquired by Chinese firms through civilian investments or licensing deals could find their way into a new generation of Chinese weapons that would threaten American troops and American allies."

It is no wonder why Pompeo also raised "security concerns" about the China-Israel business cooperation.

Israel Today reported that while President Trump is presently making very public gestures bolstering the historical and religious Jewish claims to the Holy Land the likes of which we have not seen since the Balfour Declaration, he does not want the Israeli government chumming up to America's adversary during a time of mounting tension.  U.S. officials explained that the Trump administration "doesn't have a problem with people having relationships with China, but the corona crisis sort of highlights the dangers of dealing with states that are not transparent, that don't have fair trade practices."

Last year the U.S. issued the two warnings to Israel when:

•   Secretary Pompeo said that unless Israel reduces cooperation with China, the U.S. might reduce "intelligence sharing and co-location of security facilities."

•   Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton encouraged Israeli officials to take a tougher stance against Chinese electronics manufacturers ZTE and Huawei.

The Risks

The Trump Administration is presently engaged in a new war of words with China. Trump has already accused the CCP of concealing the coronavirus outbreak until it was too late. Early this month Pompeo, speaking on the ABC program This Week, backed President Donald Trump's assertion "that there is a significant amount of evidence that [the coronavirus] came from that laboratory in Wuhan." And this past Friday an official with the Chinese National Health Commission, corroborated Pompeo's allegation, saying that the COVID-19 samples were destroyed in line with public health laws and to "prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety."

It is obvious that Israel has no intentions in getting caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and China. At the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu's own Foreign Ministry has issued a widely reported assessment to the security cabinet that Israel will probably not be able to enjoy the fruits of Chinese infrastructure investments without losing a significant degree of American support.