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May 13, 2020 9:21 am

Following US Pressure, Israel to Review Chinese Bid for Major Desalination Plant

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Then-U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (front, second from right) visits Israel’s Sorek water desalination plant in April 2016. Photo: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv. – Following pressure by the United States, Israel will review the bid of a Hong Kong-based company for the construction of what is expected to be the world’s largest desalination plant—worth $1.5 billion.

The issue of Chinese influence, which includes CK Hutchison Holdings’ bid for the “Sorek B” desalination plant, in Israel’s economy is expected to be one of the topics discussed when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the Jewish state on Wednesday.

“As the Secretary has repeatedly stated, the United States strives for trade and investment on fair and reciprocal terms, with reliable partners, for long-term mutual benefit,” US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Axios. “China’s business dealings, by contrast, are often opaque, transactional and geared to benefit the Chinese Communist Party.  We speak often to our friends in Israel about these risks and stand ready to help.”

In August 2019, Pompeo told JNS, “We want to make sure that Israeli citizens don’t have their private information stolen by the Chinese Communist Party. Using China as an interconnector, as a backbone for a network, puts at risk that network. It makes a likelihood that we will not deem that network trusted, and the United States has a policy of not permitting American information to flow across networks that aren’t trusted.”

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Israeli officials told Axios that CK Hutchison Holdings has a good chance of being awarded the government tender for the desalination plant, which is expected to produce 200 billion liters of water annually, or a quarter of Israel’s overall water consumption.

The firm that wins the tender to build the plant would operate it for 25 years.

After US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week to interfere in the matter, the latter called for a new government committee to monitor foreign investments in Israel.

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