Washington, Jun 16: The United States Senate while passing the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) bill expressed a grave concern about China's investment in the port of Haifa, Israel citing “security implications.”
The NDAA bill that sets out the US military’s budget and priorities for the forthcoming year was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe on Thursday.
The bill referred to the Shanghai International Port Group, which under a deal with Haifa is set to operate its port for 25 years starting in 2021.
It said " the United States has an interest in the future forward presence of United States naval vessels at the Port of Haifa in Israel but has serious security concerns with respect to the leasing arrangements of the Port of Haifa as of the date of the enactment of this Act; and should urge the Government of Israel to consider the security implications of foreign investment in Israel, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The port of Haifa has long been a docking point for the US Navy’s 6th fleet.
In March, US President Donald Trump warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if Israel does not curb its ties with China, its security relationship with the United States could suffer. Similarly, in the same month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a warning to Israel on the close security ties between the two nations could be reduced over Israel’s growing cooperation with China, according to The Times of Israel.
In October last year, Netanyahu and China’s Vice President Wang Qishan co-hosted a high-profile trade and innovation conference in Jerusalem. Netanyahu announced at the time that the two countries would complete a free-trade agreement in 2019, and that China plans to invest heavily in Israeli infrastructure, including new ports and a light rail.
National Security Advisor John Bolton raised spying concerns surrounding Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat in April. Both firms are currently bidding on Israel’s 5G network.
The chief of Israel's Security Agency Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman also warned about China's investment and said " Chinese influence in Israel is particularly dangerous in terms of strategic infrastructure and investments in larger companies.
Israel has awarded several key infrastructures to Chinese companies. These include a $1 billion private port at Ashdod awarded to China Harbour Engineering Company, and a $4.1 billion contract for light rail transit in the Israeli capital, for which four state-owned Chinese firms are currently bidding.