by WorldTribune Staff, September 2, 2021
When Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Joe Biden at the White House on Aug. 27, he was fully prepared to face difficult questioning over his nation’s extensive business ties with China from a U.S. president who has vowed to take a tough line against the Asian communist superpower, a new report says.
But Biden never brought the matter up.
Bennett “and his advisers were very nervous about the looming discussion on China” in the lead-up to the Washington visit, Axios reported on Sept. 1. According to the news site:
Two weeks before the White House meeting, CIA director William Burns had told Bennett the U.S. was concerned about Chinese investments in Israel, particularly in the tech sector, and involvement in major infrastructure projects.
But in Bennett’s meetings with Biden as well as with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, China was only mentioned in passing, according to two Israeli officials, one who attended those meetings and another who received a full briefing.
The Israelis were mystified:
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at a press conference [on Sept. 1] that there was “no concrete demand coming from the U.S. about our relations with China” and “nobody asked us to change anything.”
Before Bennett headed to America, there was grave concern in Israel about U.S. unease with Israel’s increasingly close working relationship with the Red Chinese. Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, penned an Aug. 13 column titled “Israel will pay a price for being on wrong side of the US-China fight.” Katz wrote:
Bennett should bear this in mind, because while he will be entering the Oval Office hoping to secure security commitments on Iran and Syria, President Joe Biden and his senior staff are looking for Israel to cut back on its relationship with China. They will be happy to talk about Iran, the Palestinians, and retaining the IDF’s qualitative military edge, but they also want secure commitments about China.
“We need to wake up,” one top government official said this week.
Katz referenced China’s growing footprint within the Middle East nation so intimately allied with America:
This is the same China that has been eating Israel’s infrastructure for the last decade. Ports, power stations, bridges, tunnels and more have all been built by China. All indications are that Biden will bring this up with Bennett when the two meet. Some in Israel’s government have recommended convening the security cabinet to discuss the issue. It is that important.
Katz related that the awarding of a major infrastructure project had been delayed and wondered if concern over angering the U.S. by handing the contract to a Chinese company might be the reason:
Which brings us to the delay in announcing which construction companies won the tender to build the Tel Aviv light rail’s new Green and Purple Lines. NTA, the government-funded company responsible for the design and construction of the transit system – which is run by former Prisons Service officer Haim Glick – has been dragging its feet in making a final decision….
The delay in announcing the winner makes diplomatic sense for Israel, if the tender has been won by the China Railway Construction Company (CRCC), a member of one of the groups competing for the multi-billion-dollar deal.
CRCC is well-known in Israel, and has worked here for years. One of its subsidiaries, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC), dug the Gilon Tunnel in the North in 2014 at a cost of about $200m, worked as a subcontractor on the Carmel Tunnel project for about $150m. in 2010, and for the last couple of years has been working on the Tel Aviv light rail’s Red Line to the tune of $500m.
Biden issued an executive order in June banning these companies from receiving any US investment, due to suspected ties to the Chinese defense industry. So Americans cannot do business with the CRCC, but Israel seems to think that it can.
With Bennett’s White House trip, Biden was granted a golden opportunity to exert U.S. pressure on an ally to help check China’s global economic expansionism. The ally was fully expecting this pressure, and by all appearances was highly sensitive to it.
Yet the pressure never came.