Bennett-Lapid must face Biden as China’s tentacles grow in Israel

Remember who won the tender to build the Port of Ashdod in 2014 for a billion dollars? The answer: the China Communications Construction Group.

Remember Alon Tavor’s power plant that recently sold for around $ 600 million? It was also sold to a subsidiary of the same Chinese group.

And what about the green and purple lines of the Tel Aviv tram? A call for tenders is currently underway to find out who will build the two sections of track which will stretch for tens of kilometers and will include around 100 stops. One group competing for the multibillion-dollar project includes a company called the China Railway Construction Company (CRCC). A decision will be made on the call for tenders in the coming days.

This same CRCC has been in Israel for some time. One of its subsidiaries, China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. (CCECC), dug the Gilon tunnel in the north in 2014 at a cost of around $ 200 million. In 2010, she worked as a subcontractor on the Carmel Tunnel project costing around $ 150 million, and for the past two years she has worked on the Red Line of the Tel- Aviv at a cost of around $ 500 million.

The names of these companies are all worth keeping in mind, since US President Joe Biden last week issued an executive order barring them from receiving US investments due to alleged links to defense technologies or surveillance used outside of China, as well as internally to facilitate rights violations.

In other words, while the Americans cannot do business with the China Communications Group which is building the port of Ashdod, Israel can, and while the Americans cannot do business with the CRCC, which could be announced. the winner of the purple and green lines in the days to come, Israel seems to think so.

This is a continuing diplomatic crisis that will be one of the most difficult issues that the new government – led by new coalition leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid – will have to face in its relationship with the Biden administration.

The question of China’s involvement in building and operating critical infrastructure in Israel has already been raised in talks between Biden officials and their Israeli counterparts. For now, it seems the conversations have been mostly friendly and polite, but in Jerusalem, it’s already understood that it won’t stay that way for long.

It is not a new problem for Israel either. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli-Chinese trade relations had become a minefield for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his relationship with the administration of US President Donald Trump, who took a firm political stance on Beijing.

In October 2019, and under pressure from Washington, Netanyahu set up an advisory committee to review foreign investment, with a particular focus on China. The advisory committee is headed by the Ministry of Finance and is supposed to examine national security aspects in the foreign investment approval process.

In January, just days before stepping down, former US Ambassador David Friedman told the Jerusalem Post that China’s threat to the world will continue to be a “continuing and dynamic problem” between Israel and the United States. United States.

Israel, he said, was in a better position than before, but “the safeguards still need to be tightened in terms of malicious Chinese investment.”

And again, last Tuesday, the Biden administration said it was putting in place a new “strike force” to tackle unfair trade practices, especially from China.

Israel will have to adapt to this new reality and start taking the Chinese threat more seriously. He will also have to choose a side, and the answer should be easy. Otherwise, it could become the next big crisis between a new government in Jerusalem and the US president.

About Jimmie T.

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