CIA Chief Puts Bennett on Notice on China Ties

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of the Haifa Port. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has inherited the China headache from his predecessor Binyamin Netanyahu.

CIA director Bill Burns told Bennett during a visit to Israel last week that the U.S. was concerned about Chinese investments in Israel, particularly in the tech sector and major infrastructure projects, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing Israeli officials.

The Trump administration had warned repeatedly that further Chinese involvement in big infrastructure projects, like the new port in Haifa, could harm the U.S.-Israel security relationship.

Netanyahu set an oversight panel, but was clearly reluctant alienating China, an increasingly important trade partner.

Now Biden is leaning on Bennett.

“In recent months, we started a dialogue with the Biden administration on China. The U.S. asked about specific projects like the Chinese involvement in the Tel Aviv metro. We told the Americans we welcome U.S. infrastructure companies to work on big projects in Israel but they don’t apply to the tenders,” a senior Israeli official told Axios.

Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing last week, State Department and Pentagon officials said that the White House had warned its partners in the Middle East further Chinese involvement could eventually compromise their sovereignty and security relationships with the U.S.

“We know our partners and allies in the Middle East have trade relations with China and that’s OK, … but we made it clear that there is a certain kind of cooperation with China we cannot live with,” said the State Department’s Mira Resnick, presumably referring to ties that could affect sensitive security assets.