China’s Xi snubbed by Netanyahu after Israel pulled out of investment worth billions

Israel: Netanyahu addresses escalating violence with Palestine

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the US to “adjust” its position on the Israel-Palestine conflict on Sunday. Speaking at a virtual debate of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Palestine, Mr Wang said because of the obstruction of the US, the UNSC has not been able to speak with one unified voice on Palestine. He was referring to the repeated efforts of Washington to block the Security Council from issuing a joint statement on Israeli violence in Palestine.

The Chinese diplomat said: “We call upon the US to shoulder its responsibilities, adjust its position.”

In his remarks, Mr Wang also called for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine.

He said: “The use of force cannot ensure peace, nor can violence bring tranquillity.”

He then added it is important that Israel exercises restraint and observe the relevant UN resolutions, stop the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the eviction of the Palestinian people.

The US has always been a shield for Israel in the UNSC, and the administration of US President Joe Biden has said that Israel has the right to defend itself as they believe it was Hamas in Gaza which first launched rockets into Israel.

Relations between China and Israel are generally good with no particular bilateral problems.

However, the two nations continue to remain divided on the issue of Palestine, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the economic blockade of Gaza, and the Israeli West Bank barrier wall.

Moreover, over the past few years, the US has been trying to get Israel to break up with China, due to Washington’s trade war with Beijing, but the efforts have been somewhat feeble.

A year ago, though, Israel did buckle to US pressure to curtail Chinese investments in sensitive areas of the economy, sparking Chinese fury.

In May, 2020, Israel rejected a bid by a Hong Kong-based conglomerate to build the country’s largest desalination plant.

The Israeli government decided the $1.5billion (£1.3bn) Sorek 2 project, which will supply more than a third of Israel’s water, would be built by a consortium led by local company IDE Technologies and financed by Israel’s Bank Leumi and two European lenders.

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This essentially edged out a bid from CK Hutchison Holdings, controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

The decision came days after Mike Pompeo, the former US Secretary of State, made Washington’s opposition to any Chinese involvement in the plant’s construction a key issue during a lightning trip to Israel.

Mr Pompeo said after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We do not want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Israeli infrastructure, Israeli communication systems, all of the things that put Israeli citizens at risk and in turn put the capacity for America to work alongside Israel on important projects at risk as well.”

However, the Israeli Finance Ministry and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was involved in the tender, said the decision to award the desalination project to IDE came down to cost.

He told Israeli radio: “The Israeli company’s proposal was better by a significant margin compared to all the competitors, including the Chinese.

“I was in a meeting with Pompeo and Netanyahu, and it didn’t seem to me that this facility is at the top of the Americans’ issues.”

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The Trump administration was pressuring Israel to block Chinese investment into so-called dual-use start-ups, particularly after Israel allowed a Shanghai-based company to operate a port at Haifa and telecoms equipment groups Huawei and ZTE expressed interest in expanding in the country.

Israel set up a committee to review foreign investments into sensitive sectors in October, 2022, partly to appease Washington, but according to the Financial Times, US officials complained the committee did not go far enough.

Trade between Israel and China has grown about 400 percent in the past decade to more than $14billion (£9.8bn).

A US State Department spokesperson told the FT: “Israel is a superb partner to the United States, and we have full confidence in our partnership on this issue as well.”

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