On the Levantine seaboard, Chinese state-owned Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), working with Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company, the world’s leading supplier of heavy loading and logistics equipment, constructed a new, state-of-the-art private port in Israel’s Haifa Bay with a container capacity upwards of 1.86 million TEU. Known as Bay Port, SIPG is slated to operate Israel’s largest container terminal for the next 25 years. With freight rail service to Beit She’an, near the border crossing with Jordan, China could extend the railroad into Jordan, thereby creating multi-modal connectivity with Arab Gulf States. China has also built a new port in Ashdod with additional facilities to create a logistics and high-tech development hub on the eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, Israel is privatizing its state-owned port of Haifa in October and bids from DP World, India’s Adani Ports, and the UK’s DAO Shipping, along with their respective Israeli consortium partners, have been submitted.
Israeli Status in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative Project
The Importance of the Chinese Project to Israel
The Israeli decision-makers realized the importance of the BRI from several angles:
It comes at a time when the US strategic tendency is to gradually and quietly disengage from the deep US involvement in the Middle East, and particularly when China is the number one trading partner of the Middle East. The conditions of US energy independence from the Middle East oil have increased, and there is a European reluctance to expand the scope of NATO’s work outside the European framework, which in turn increases the burdens on the US. In addition, Russia seeks to ensure a secure Middle Eastern environment as a strategic belt for its Eurasian project and that would narrow the movement area of the US strategy. For there is a high degree of Chinese-Russian harmony, where both are members in international, regional and intercontinental organizations, not to mention the overlap between the Eurasian project and the BRI.
The Israeli Role in the BRI
Israel is an important gateway to China to access Western technology, especially in light of the intensified US blockade of this aspect of its relation with China. China considers this Israeli aspect important, since there are many partnerships between Israeli companies and American ones in particular and European ones in general.
The discoveries of potential energy sources on the shores of the Mediterranean have increased, making Chinese options to access energy sources expand, especially when the indicators of economic convergence between Israel, Greece and Cyprus are increasing.
The Israeli Predicament in its Relationship with the BRI
There is a heated debate in Israel about the prospects of the Chinese-Israeli relationship, in which the BRI would be the backbone for the next thirty years. Here we find three trends in the Israeli strategic thinking:
Israel has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), it has formed the Joint China-Israel Bilateral Task Force on Economic Relations headed by Eugene Kandel, which seeks to develop the Israeli role in the project linking the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean across the Gulf of Suez on the one hand, and on the other hand, it monitors the investment sectors between the two parties.
BRI will help China add to its international military bases, says Pentagon, site of The Straits Times 3/5/2019
Aron Shai, What are Beijing’s real intentions? Israel-China relations and the Belt and Road Initiative, site of Academic Studies Press, 25/4/2019
Mercy A. Kuo, China and Israel in the Belt and Road Initiative, site of the Diplomat, 19/9/2018
Zhan Yongxin, The Belt & Road Initiative, From vision to fruition, The Jerusalem Post newspaper, 2/5/2019
China and Israel to enhance trade cooperation through the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative, site of China Go Abroad
Chris Devonshire-Ellis, China’s Belt & Road Initiative In The Middle East, site of Silk Road Briefing, 21/6/2019
Mark Buckle, How Israel could play a role in BRI, 27/8/2018,