US Navy concerned over plans for Chinese take over of Israeli port of Haifa

Security concerns have prompted the Israeli cabinet to review a deal made in 2015 with the Shanghai Int'l Ports Group that would put the port under Chinese control for 25 years, starting in 2021

Haifa Port, Israel

Haifa Port, Israel (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The U.S. and Israeli governments are expressing concern over a deal made in 2015 between Israel’s Transportation Ministry and the Shanghai International Ports Group (SIPG) that would see control of the Haifa port leased to the Chinese corporation for 25 years starting in 2021.

It has been reported that the U.S. Navy is likely to cease port visits to the Israeli port once the Chinese company takes control. The Israeli government’s Inner Security Cabinet is reviewing the agreement as a result of the U.S. Navy’s statements.

The U.S. Navy is currently conducting a cyber-security review in the wake of Chinese hacks, it was reported last week. The U.S. government and others around the world are becoming more weary of Beijing’s cyber espionage capabilities, along with the likelihood of CCP agents directing China’s major telecom companies.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli agreement with SIPG calls for a US$2 million investment from the Chinese company to improve port facilities. Chinese media has said it aims to turn the Haifa bay terminal into the largest port in the country.

The U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet Commander, CDR Kyle Raines, said that, while he would not speculate on how operations in the region might change after 2021, he emphasizes that the partnership with Israel would remain “steadfast.”

Sources speaking to the Jerusalem Post have confirmed that, in the wake of recent events, and security concerns facing the U.S. Navy, the Haifa Port deal with SIPG was being reviewed at the highest levels to consider possible implications for the country’s security infrastructure, as well as strategic relations with the U.S.

Retired IDF brigadier-general and an expert on Israel-China relations, Assaf Orion , was quoted on the issue.

"There is always a question of encouraging investment versus managing risk. The bottom line here is that Israel will make a fatal mistake by doing either or both of the following: disregarding China’s potential to advance Israel’s economy, and doing it with our eyes shut. We must keep our eyes open, fully aware of the risk management requirements and its possible impact on the US-Israel relationship."​

Once the port is under Chinese management, Chinese agents would be capable of closely monitoring U.S. as well as Israeli naval activity in the region. It has likewise been suggested that docking ships for maintenance or equipment deliveries at the port while it is under Chinese control might jeopardize the security of U.S. operations.