November 13, 2019

What’s Beijing Doing in Haifa?

“Below the radar screens of all but a few experts, a dispute is brewing with the potential to disrupt defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel and embroil the Jewish state in America’s increasingly intense trade conflict with China.

The story begins in 2015, when Israel’s Transportation Ministry accepted an offer from the Shanghai International Port Group to operate the port of Haifa for 25 years, starting in 2021, and invest $2 billion to expand the port into Israel’s largest harbor. Notably, this decision was taken without the formal involvement of either Israel’s security cabinet or its National Security Council.

As far as I can tell, this agreement went almost unnoticed for three years, until the transfer of part of the new port to Chinese control in the summer of 2018 sparked a furor in the Israeli media. But it took a meeting this past August between a delegation from the Washington-based Hudson Institute and Haifa University’s Research Center for Maritime Policy and Strategy to make this issue a matter of international concern. During this meeting, the U.S. delegation, which included retired Adm. Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, and ex-Pentagon official Douglas Feith, weighed in against the deal with a vehemence that reportedly stunned many Israeli participants.”

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