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US: Israel ties to China may risk our ability to work with Tel Aviv

China's President Xi Jinping (R) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands in Beijing, China on 21 March 2017 [ETIENNE OLIVEAU/AFP/Getty Images]
China's President Xi Jinping (R) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands in Beijing, China on 21 March 2017 [ETIENNE OLIVEAU/AFP/Getty Images]

The US swooped in last week to delay its ally Israel from signing a $1.5 billion infrastructure contract with China.

During a short visit to Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider Tel Aviv’s relations with China, and successfully managed to delay a Chinese infrastructure project taking place in Israel, citing “security risks”.

The delayed project is the construction of a desalination plant worth $1.5 billion.

Pompeo warned during his visit: “We do not want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Israeli infrastructure, Israeli communication systems, all of the things that put Israeli citizens at risk and in turn put the capacity for America to work alongside Israel on important projects at risk as well.”

Former deputy director of Mossad Ram Ben-Barak hailed Netanyahu for his “wise decision” to delay the project.

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He said: “We have to make decisions today to make sure we are not stuck between the Americans and the Chinese tomorrow — why put ourselves in that silly position?”

However, Chinese officials furiously hit back at US attempts to intervene in its relationship with Israel.

The Chinese Embassy in Israel hit back, calling Pompeo’s allegations “absurd”.

A spokesperson said in a statement: “Mr. Pompeo struck an old string on China-Israel business cooperation; “security concerns”. Over the past few years, he has been labelling Chinese products, investments and personnel with the tag of “security risks”, without producing any concrete evidence.”

The new desalination plant would be the largest of its kind in the world and produce a staggering 200 million cubic metres of water annually; a quarter of Israel’s total consumption.

This comes as tensions increase between China and the US over coronavirus, with America laying the blame for the global COVID-19 pandemic at China’s door, and accusing the Chinese government of a “cover up”.

Pompeo’s visit seems to be a warning to Israel by the US to reconsider its relations with China and pick a side in the growing dispute between the two superpowers.

The US has the highest number of cases in the world, totalling 1,528,931. It has also had the highest number of deaths at 90,993.

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