Report: MKs Seek to Maintain Closer Eye on Chinese Investments

YERUSHALAYIM -
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters/Etienne Oliveau/Pool)

Israel has in recent years been a magnet for foreign investments, and China has played an important role in that. Chinese investors have invested significant sums in Israelis firms and institutions from Tnuva to Ashdod Port, to the construction of the Tel Aviv regional subway. While Israel is interested in continuing its lucrative relationship with China, officials want to ensure that those investments benefit Israel, as well as Chinese investors.

A report on Channel Ten said that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee recently took up the issue, the result of a request by MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid). According to sources at the meeting, one of the topics of discussion was the fact that one of the subway tunnels in Tel Aviv – being dug by a Chinese firm – ran within 20 meters of the Ministry of Defense. According to testimony by a representative of the Economy Ministry, the report said, there was no Israeli security organization checking on the Chinese presence so close to a sensitive installation. While Israel has bought a great deal of heavy equipment and other expensive items from China, China buys far fewer products from Israel, the Ministry official said.

As a result of the discussion, Globes said, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has appointed a committee to investigate the economic relationship between Israel and China. The report said that because of the sensitivity of the issue, Netanyahu instructed committee members to keep a low profile.

At the meeting, Professor Avi Simchon, Netanyahu’s chief economic advisor, expressed support for the tough stance by U.S. President Donald Trump on trade with China. Simchon was quoted as saying that “Many economists who supported Hillary Clinton in the election warned against the steps Trump is taking, claiming they would cause damage. But China is no longer a small, poor developing country, so Trump is seeking to change the rules of the game in trade with them. The changes he seeks to make cannot be done by dialog, and they will not take effect without confrontation. The Clinton supporters do not understand this.”