Israeli plan to join BRI and its effects on U.S. national security

 After China officially announced its Belt and Road initiative, the Israeli side worked from the outset to be an essential and genuine part of it.  This was explicitly announced by the Israeli diplomat “Hagai Shagrir” in his capacity as Director of the Northeast Asia Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by stressing that:

 “The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative brings more business opportunities to Israeli companies in the field of infrastructure projects, and Israel considers itself part of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which makes its way from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean”.

 In another interview with “Hagai Shagrer”, Director of the Asia and Pacific Office at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he confirmed the possibility of Israel joining the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative by asserting that:

“The Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term vision and a positive initiative”

 In view of the seriousness of Hagai Shagrir’s position, in his capacity as director of the Asia and Pacific Office at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as a liaison between China and Tel Aviv, his danger lies in his preparation by Tel Aviv to deal with China since he was a young man. In 1991, the Israeli diplomat “Hagai Shagrir” traveled  to China, when he was just a young student, Shagrir traveled to China as a wandering tourist. Here, “Hagai Shagrir” has held his current position as the Director Responsible for the Asia Pacific Office since September 2016. Prior to that, Shagrir worked in two Israeli consulates in China: the Israeli consulate in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China, and the Israeli consulate in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwestern China.  We find that at the present time, “Shagrir” pays several business visits to China, ranging between three or four times annually.

 The Israeli shores, from Gaza to Haifa, represent one of the main stations of the Belt Road and the old road before Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian state, which was more than a thousand years ago, to connect the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal, through the giant Israeli infrastructure project, known as (the Peace Railway, or the Eilat-Ashdod Port Railway).

 The Israeli occupation authorities took the initiative to sign early on the partnership in the Asian Infrastructure Bank, which was established by China as part and essential input of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

The danger of Israeli planning also enables it to be part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative to benefit from Chinese projects and investments, by completing (a railway project from the Gulf through Saudi Arabia, passing through Jordan to Palestine).

   The idea of ​​this project for China is based on: building a railway extending from (the Palestinian shores, starting from Gaza to Haifa, as an important Chinese station on the Silk Road), and although the actual authority is for Israel over this region that is an important extension of the Chinese belt and road, and it is an occupation authority. However, China does not stop at that point for much, what is important is (the extent of Israel’s desire as an authority controlling this sensitive and very important area for China on the Mediterranean coast to deal with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative).

  Israel seeks to invest in the recent normalization agreements with the Arab regimes, and the undeclared relations with some other regimes, through projects that serve the Israeli integration into the Chinese initiative, most notably:

   (A railway project that could extend from the Gulf through Saudi Arabia, passing through Jordan), and as long as the Chinese and Israeli sides talked about their joint plans to establish this railway line, all the way through (the occupied Palestinian territories to Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea, which if it happens, it will be the most aspiration  To Israel, as in addition to reaping huge profits as a result of this short and effective line for it), it will perpetuate the Israeli side as a natural part within the international system in the region, which is (which harms Egyptian and Arab national security and the system of active forces in the Middle East region).

  What appears to show that the Israeli side has a desire to participate in the projects of the Chinese initiative is the Israeli signing of the partnership in the (Asian Infrastructure Bank), in addition to the growing joint projects between the two sides in the field of economy and armaments that are integrated with the projects of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

  And because of this strict American opposition to Chinese cooperation with Israel, Israeli objections continued in the face of American interference in its affairs to cooperate with Beijing.  One of the most prominent phrases of the former head of the Israeli intelligence service (Mossad), “Yossi Cohen”, on June 7, 2020, who stepped down in June 2020 from his post, was his phrase:

 “I don’t understand what the Americans want from China. If someone understands that, he should explain it to me… China does not oppose us and is not our phrase”

  In this context, Washington considers with concern the impact of Israeli cooperation with China on its national security, and the United States of America’s fears increased following the Israeli mention of the possibility of officially joining the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative after Tel Aviv joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and here came Washington’s dealings with great concern, with China’s building the new port for Israel in the city of Haifa, with the vision of the CIA, that the permanent presence of China in the Israeli port means that there is a golden opportunity for Tel Aviv to collect intelligence information, such as: facilitating China’s monitoring of the movements of American ships, as it facilitates this for the Chinese Developing electronic monitoring systems that endanger US cyber security.

 The visit of “William Burns”, Director of the CIA, to Israel in August 2021 brought to the fore the United States’ fears of growing economic and technological cooperation between Tel Aviv and Beijing, which Washington believes “affects its national security”. The most prominent here is that immediately after William Burns, Director of the CIA, visited Israel, Israel, and as a result of American pressure on it, replaced the Shanghai International Ports Group, which was supposed to manage a new container terminal in Haifa Port, with a well-known Emirati company, the “Shanghai International Ports Group DP World”.

 Here, Washington considers its national security in danger when it comes to any kind of partnership between its main ally in the Middle East, “Israel” and China.  Washington’s reservations also came when the well-known Chinese billionaire “Li Kaching” donated $130 million to the (Israeli Technion Research Institute).

 We note here that all Chinese companies that invest or build major infrastructure projects in Israel have relations with the Israeli government, military entities, or armed forces.  It is likely that any large-scale Israeli company in the People’s Republic of China will have unofficial or official links to the Chinese government, and it is expected that there will be cooperation with its intelligence and security services.  Of course, Washington will not accept the transfer of technology related to US defense located in Israel to Beijing, and the US authorities have concerns that China may obtain technologies or collect intelligence information to threaten the national security of the United States of America in the field of cyber, satellite communications, artificial intelligence and robots.

  Israel also views the Chinese initiative as a source of profit, in light of the availability of its modern infrastructure, which does not need a long time to be integrated or developed to integrate with the proposed initiative projects, unlike other Asian countries that seek to join the Chinese Silk Road, and perhaps one of the most important projects  What the Chinese and Israeli parties aim to implement in this context is: the use and development of the road from (the port of Eilat on the Red Sea by land to the ports of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Haifa).

 Chinese and Israeli interests actually intersect in several regions around the world, which are vital to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, including the African continent, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region, where both Beijing and Tel Aviv seek to invest in those regions and sell advanced weapons to them, as relations represent  The distinction between Israel, South Korea and Japan – who are opponents of Beijing – is a source of competition at the same time between China and Tel Aviv.

  Signs of the American concern about the possibilities of (the militarization of the Chinese project of the Belt and Road through that Aviv) began, as Washington began to think deeply to rein in the Israeli side with all the implications of this trend of the necessities of deep thinking, on how to deal with this possibility, whose signs began with China establishing a base  Military in the state of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.  There is also a report by the US Department of Defense “The Pentagon” that was submitted to the US Congress, which suggested this possibility. He refers to the possibility of building military bases or facilities for China in the state of Pakistan and in countries that have previous experiences in hosting foreign military bases, specifically in the Middle East region.

 The same trend occurred on December 8, 2021, when the CIA warned that Beijing intends to establish a permanent military base on the coast of Equatorial Guinea, which would give it a naval capability in the Atlantic Ocean against the United States of America.

 Washington fears that the Chinese presence in the city of Haifa and the granting of facilities there by Tel Aviv, may be a Chinese focal point for collecting information about the US Sixth Fleet present in that region, which Washington considers very dangerous.

 On the other hand, there are many controversial points between Israel and China, the most prominent of which is Israel’s position on the issue of the Uighur Muslims in the Chinese “Xinjiang” region, and this was confirmed by the (Israeli Walah website), by leaking that “Neug Jin Chao”, who is one of the Chinese diplomats  The adults handed the Israeli ambassador a sharp message saying that Israel’s relationship with China has reached a critical stage.

 Likewise, the strict Chinese objection to Israel’s relations with Taiwan, which was evident in the Chinese government’s sending, through the head of the International Affairs Department of the Chinese Communist Party, “Liu Jianchao” in August 2022, a strongly worded letter to the Israeli ambassador in Beijing, “Irit Bin Aba,” to warn her of  Allowing American pressure to harm Israel’s relationship with Beijing, with China asserting that it can never tolerate any country that supports Taiwan.

  Here we will find strained relations between China and Israel following the Chinese objection to the press interview of the Israeli “Jerusalem Post” website with the Taiwanese Foreign Minister “Joseph Wu” in October 2022, so the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv sent a stern warning at the time to the journalist “Jacob Katz”, editor-in-chief  The Jerusalem Post newspaper demanded that he immediately delete the interview from the Israeli website, and Chinese diplomats made several calls to the Israeli journalist “Jacob Katz”, objecting to the interview with a minister of state, namely Taiwan, which is not recognized by most countries of the world, including the United States of America itself, and which it considers  China is an integral part of its national soil.  Therefore, the Chinese diplomatic threat to immediately cut off relations with the Israeli newspaper came, along with the Chinese threat to downgrade relations with Israel in the event that the interview with the Taiwanese foreign minister was not deleted in order to prevent provocation from China.  And this strong threat from the Chinese authorities proved that Beijing is ready to attack Israel, if the positions of the Hebrew state conflict with Chinese policies.

  We must also understand the conflicting Chinese and Israeli position on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and the Israeli position on the 25-year strategic partnership agreement between China and Iran, with the United States of America and its Israeli ally seeing it from a perspective different from Beijing, which sheds light on the interests and alliances of each party, as it sees  Washington and Tel Aviv that the 25-year agreement between China and Iran carries an implicit message to the American side about perpetuating competition for global influence and through which China sought to move from a trading country to a sovereign state.  The American and Israeli sides view Iran, through the agreement concluded between it and China for a period of 25 years, that it may become an advanced base for China in the same spheres of influence of the United States of America and its allies in Europe and the West.  In the context of Chinese relations with the Hebrew state, we can understand the Chinese position through the message of the Chinese representative to the United Nations, and his assertion that: “The United States of America must respond to Iran’s demands instead of exaggerating the problems between them.”  Of course, this position affects the relationship between China and the Israeli occupation authority, which is always looking for any international support to stand with it against Iran in its nuclear agreement with it.

  As we know, China is focusing on developing Iranian ports, specifically (the port of Chahbar overlooking the Arabian Sea).  It is also possible and the case that China will depend on Iranian oil at the expense of its imports from other oil-producing and exporting countries.

  It should be noted here that Israeli President “Isaac Herzog” made a phone call to his Chinese counterpart, “Xi Jinping” in 2021 in the first phone call between them, expressing his concern to Beijing about the repercussions of Iran’s possession of a nuclear program, calling on a number of experts in Tel Aviv to persuade Beijing to put pressure on Tehran.  to stop its nuclear program and activity.

 On the Syrian side, Beijing criticized any Israeli military escalation in Syria, for fear of targeting its interests there, with the presence of many experts and thousands of Chinese workers in Syrian military facilities for reconstruction, and Beijing provided several aids to Damascus in order to improve the communications infrastructure, which raises concerns among the intelligence agency.  American centralism from the possibility of using it in espionage operations against Tel Aviv and American interests there, as Tel Aviv fears at the same time the improvement of the Syrian economic and military capabilities by China, which represents a long-term threat to it, in addition to the Israeli and American fears at the same time of buying Syria  For advanced Chinese defense systems, which will inevitably work to raise the efficiency of the Syrian Air Defense Forces to repel any future Israeli attacks on the Syrian territories and the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

 The former Mossad chief “Danny Yatom”, warned of any Israeli mistake to strike Chinese workers in Syria, which would eventually lead to a crisis and tension in relations between Beijing and Tel Aviv. The latter also fears the nature of Chinese investments and commercial projects in Syria, which may be a cover for military and  Intelligence projects that will represent restrictions on Israeli dealings with the Syrian file, especially since Beijing helped Damascus to obtain a ballistic missile program and a chemical weapons program on Syrian soil, which harms Tel Aviv and US national security in favor of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, which arouses the anger and fears of the Americans and the Israelis on the nature of military intelligence cooperation between Syria and China.

 Here, a number of Israeli military and security leaders, and a number of American military officials shared with them in this approach, made several statements, in which they expressed “reservations about the Israeli rush behind” the giant Chinese state that establishes alliances with the enemies of Israel”, in reference to a number of Arab countries, the enemy of Israel, such as Syria and the Hezbollah group and Iran.

Here we understand the extent of the Israeli desire also to develop their relations with China to curb and restrict military sales, especially missiles, from China to certain Arab countries, especially Syria, Lebanon and perhaps Yemen, as the Israelis believe that some of these Chinese missiles will reach the Lebanese Hezbollah group in southern Lebanon.  , which represents a threat to Israeli national security on the border with Lebanon.

  Here we can briefly understand the map of the relationship between China and Israel and its impact on each other and on the security of Washington, China and Tel Aviv itself, with the conflicting interests of each of them towards the other, through the categorical Chinese rejection of the positions of the hard-line and extremist Israeli right led by the Israeli Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu” towards  Iran and the Palestinian issue, in addition to the current hard-line stances of the Netanyahu government towards the policy of settlements and the rights of the Palestinians, which insists on continuing the policy of settlement and Judaization and resolving the fate of the occupied Palestinian territories through the policy of fait accompli. The Chinese side also looking so angrily at the negative attitudes of the Israelis regarding the continuation of trade and military relations with Taiwan, the visit of Israeli party or academic figures, and Israel’s reception of the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Buddhist community from the Chinese province of Tibet, who is fleeing abroad.

 Here lies the danger of Israel joining the Chinese Belt and Road initiative in the foreseeable future, which is also the direct reason for the escalation of the tone of the American protests, against the background of China’s investment in the light rail system in Tel Aviv, which is expected to start work in (the vicinity of the General Staff).  Israel in the center of Tel Aviv and near the Israeli naval base in Ashdod), which constitutes a direct threat to US national security on the part of Israel, so Washington opposes any actual Israeli attempts to join the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, to ensure that China does not enter through it to the proximity of sensitive military, security and vital Israeli places at the expense of the American national security system in the Hebrew state and the Middle East region as a whole.

  Finally, and the new analysis remains in this context, it is the impact of Israeli-Chinese cooperation within the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative on American influence in the Indian Ocean and Central Asia and the Pacific regions, or what is known as the “Indo-Pacific” region in the American sense or Asia-Pacific in the concept. Therefore, Israel’s illegal transfer (according to the accusations of the Americans) of advanced technologies to China has caused great harm to the Japanese technologies that are America’s allies in the “Indo-Pacific” region, as well as to the Americans themselves, according to estimates of the Pacific Command of the US Army, near the spheres of influence of China.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit