Sino-Israeli bilateral ties hurt Washington’s Middle East interests – Greek City Times
Chinese investments have been present all over the world for the past decades. Even in the United States and the countries allied with Washington, the strong presence of Chinese companies and products cannot be avoided. However, when investments shift from a strictly commercial aspect to complex infrastructure projects, American interests are directly threatened.
This is precisely what is happening now in Israel, the United States’ greatest ally in the Middle East, which leaves room for the Chinese state for a significant investment in port infrastructure, creating such a scenario that could greatly harm the actions of the United States Navy in the region.
A few years ago, the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) – a Chinese state-owned company – won the right to operate port operations in Haifa Bay. The contract, signed between Beijing and Tel Aviv in 2015, allows China to create its own commercial platform in Haifa within 25 years.
However, despite the authorization of the operations, their start was postponed and “forgotten” by both sides, after a series of objections raised by the US Navy at the time.
What Washington did not expect was that Israel would pursue the idea of ââbuilding another port in the same region, regardless of criticism leveled by the US military.
Recently, the Israeli government officially announced a new port terminal in Haifa, which will allow large transport vessels of around 400m in length and carrying around 18,000 containers each to dock at Israel’s busiest maritime hub. .
In a statement, the Minister of Transport, Merav Michaeli, also stressed the importance of the project to improve trade relations with Arab countries such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, allowing “to strengthen our regional capacities in maritime trade ( …), not only for prosperity, but for the realization of opportunity and a real contribution to our neighbors in the Middle East.
For China, this is a very profitable investment, which further extends its influence abroad. The project is part of a wide range of Chinese investments in the Middle East and Mediterranean, as part of the expansion of the Belt and Road initiative.
For Israel, this is a big step forward in infrastructure and could generate good results for the national economy in the months to come.
Tel Aviv‘s transport ministry said in its statement that loading and unloading activities will begin soon, which will significantly improve the dynamics of Israel’s international trade.
Until now, Israel’s naval transport structure has been very precarious, with only small vessels in operation, and it was also hampered by enormous naval congestion at the ports of Haifa.
The practical result is a decline in the quality and an exponential increase in the prices of all products that arrive in the country by ship, including raw materials, household utensils, auto parts and agricultural products.
According to data from the media agency “Channel 13”, it is estimated that the Israeli economy has a monthly loss of 218 million dollars with delays in ships. In this sense, the Sino-Israeli project is essential to develop the national economy.
However, the United States is the most affected party in these transactions. Washington is deeply concerned that a port controlled by a Chinese state-owned company could disrupt its navy operations on the Israeli coast.
Haifa is a strategic region for the US armed forces, which use the port area to manage the flow of their transport of people and military equipment. It is very common for American ships to anchor in Haifa during their naval patrol activities and joint military exercises with Israel.
The site is known to house the US Navy’s amphibious assault ships, which at the same time facilitate military operations but hamper the flow of trade by aggravating naval congestion. Under the new administration, commercial operations will certainly be a priority, which worries the US Navy.
In this regard, Seshadri Vasan, former Indian Navy officer and director of the Chennai Center for China Studies, commented in a recent interview:
âFor Israel, this project will not only create resentment against the United States, but it will also raise questions about the larger form that Israel’s foreign policy has taken. Already, some reports in the Israeli media indicate that the exact terms of the deal have not been clear so far. Although Israel wants the United States to believe that this is a commercial contract, the reality is that the dimensions are also strategic and military (â¦) It should be noted that Israel has already exported defense equipment to China and strengthened its ties â.
In fact, a common interest is growing between China and Israel, but this reality is much greater than just a bilateral partnership.
China tends to gradually strengthen its presence throughout the Middle East, and Israel tends to expand its trade with Arab countries due to the recent diplomatic rapprochement (interestingly, promoted by the United States itself).
There is a favorable situation for the formation of a trading platform that makes the transport of goods between Arabs, Chinese and Israelis viable, by expanding the BRI.
Along the same lines, this approach is also taking place in a military manner, given that Israel wants to deepen its exports of military equipment to China and that Beijing will hamper the activities of the US Navy in Haifa, which tends to be accepted by Tel. -Aviv. due to the high economic interest of the Chinese Port Authority.
Lucas Leiroz, researcher in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
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