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February 4, 2021 6:16 pm

Israel Is Key Target of Economic ‘Exploitation’ From China, Risking Daylight With US, Says Report

avatar by Yoni Wilkenfeld

An MSC cargo ship, carrying containers, including some from the United Arab Emirates, docks as its cargo is unloaded at Haifa’s port, northern Israel October 12, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen.

Israel has become a key “target of China’s geo-economic exploitation” and should develop a joint strategy with the United States, argued a report published Monday by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

Chinese efforts to build ties to critical infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies around the world have landed in the Jewish state, which could ultimately create tensions in the US-Israel alliance, said the report, Countering Chinese Engagement with Israel.

“The [People’s Republic of China] could be silently driving a wedge between these two strategic partners; slowly, without either noticing or seemingly doing anything to cause, the US and Israel could find themselves at odds,” said Blaise Misztal, Vice President for Policy at the Washington, DC-based think tank, to The Algemeiner.

China, he explained, seeks to “move up the value chain” and develop its own technologies, but still must turn to partnerships in more innovative economies like Israel to do so. Firms like the telecom giant Huawei were developed with American intellectual property, and China seeks to replicate that success with massive investments in Israeli railways, ports, and tech companies.

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“I was surprised the first time I discussed the Middle East with officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, they all told me, unsolicited, how Israel was their favorite Middle Eastern country and there was fierce competition within the Ministry to get a posting there,” Misztal said. “I quickly realized why that was: Israel is the freest society in the region. Even Chinese bureaucrats long to experience that freedom. And the Chinese state seeks to exploit it.”

High-profile partnerships have included light rail system in Tel Aviv and the Haifa Port project, which became a rare source of tension between the Trump Administration and Israel, while other efforts have been less public.

Biden officials have said they would continue the previous administration’s pressure on China, but adopt a more multilateral approach, bringing allies together to confront issues like technology abuses, Hong Kong and human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

“For the last twenty years, the US and Israel have, for the most part, shared common enemies and seen eye-to-eye on the gravest threats to their security: non-state based Sunni and state-based Shi’a extremism,” Misztal told The Algemeiner.

But small countries like Israel will find it more difficult to reject Chinese investment than the US, he said, which the think tank fears could lead to daylight between the two allies.

The JINSA report’s recommendations included more intelligence sharing, stronger Israeli processes to review foreign investments, and US government investment in Israel’s tech sector.

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