Israel in trade balancing act between US, China

15 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

JERUSALEM: Torn between China and the United States, which have been in a trade war for the past year, Israel is performing a tough balancing act between its two main economic partners.

Washington has raised concerns over China’s increased role in infrastructure and sensitive sectors such as technology of its close ally Israel, with which it shares close intelligence and military cooperation, reports AFP.

These have reportedly been aired during visits to Jerusalem since January by both US Assistant Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette and National Security Advisor John Bolton. The latter’s talks focused on the northern Israeli commercial and naval port of Haifa, according to Israeli media.

Hong Kong-based Shanghai International Port Group won a tender four years ago to manage a new wharf at the port complex where US warships regularly dock.

Former Israeli ambassador to China Matan Vilnai has said it was “madness” to entrust China with the management of such a “national security asset”.  Nadav Argaman, head of Shin Bet, the domestic Israeli security service responsible for counterintelligence, has reportedly warned against Chinese investments that could facilitate espionage activities.

A former chief of the Mossad spy agency, Ephraim Halevy, has delivered similar warnings. Danny Catarivas, a foreign trade expert at the Manufacturers Association of Israel, says Washington is putting pressure on Israel for tighter controls.

“The United States is now pushing and insisting that Israel follow its example and create a foreign strategic investment control agency,” he told AFP.

He said Israel’s security cabinet has decided to set up a committee —including representatives of the intelligence services — to oversee any foreign investment considered “strategic”.

Asked by AFP, several official spokespersons refused to comment, with one saying that relations with China were “hyper-sensitive”.