China has clinched a deal to operate Haifa port which is located near an Israeli navy base known to be a nuclear-capable submarine force hub. Beijing is currently moving into Israeli ports on a wide scale.
Shanghai International Port Group won a government bid to operate Haifa for 25 years while another Chinese company, China Harbor won the bid to build Ashdod port in 2014.
Beijing’s Haifa takeover could have implications for the U.S Navy’s operations in the country.
Haifa naval base is where American warships dock regularly. With China taking control of the premises, the U.S will opt to leave due to risks to operational security.
Ex-chief of naval operations, Adm. Gary Roughead expressed concern at this latest development during a conference at the University of Haifa last month:
“The Chinese port operators will be able to monitor closely U.S. ship movements, be aware of maintenance activity and could have access to equipment moving to and from repair sites and interact freely with our crews over protracted periods.”
“Significantly, the information systems and new infrastructure integral to the ports and the likelihood of information and electronic surveillance systems jeopardize U.S. information and cybersecurity.”
Critics are wary of the latest developments between Israel and China. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy has repeatedly warned that the growing involvement of Chinese companies in Israel poses threats to its national security.
Dr. Harel Menashri, head of the cyber department at the Holon Institute of Technology and a former official in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) believes the arrangement will put China closer to a position of absolute power:
“The Beijing regime aspires to position China as the leading world power. It is taking advantage of the void created by the ‘disappearance’ of the U.S leadership in the world.”
“The method of the Chinese intelligence organ is known in the West as a ‘vacuum cleaner’ – to suck everything and then to sort it out,” says Menashri. “Israel is part of this Chinese global effort because of its advanced hi-tech industry and intimate relations with the US and EU.”