Israel rejects $1.5 billion China water plant after US pressure

Israel rejects $1.5 billion China water plant after US pressure
Israel has insisted the US did not influence its decision to award the $1.5 billion contract to a local firm.
2 min read
Mike Pompeo voiced opposition to Chinese involvement in Israeli infrastructure [Getty]

Israel announced on Tuesday that a local firm had been awarded a $1.5 billion contract to build the world’s largest desalination plant, weeks after the US expressed its opposition to Chinese involvement in the project.

China-based CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd was initially in the running to take on the lucrative infrastructure deal before IDE technologies was selected.

Comments from US Secretery of State Mike Pompeo during his recent visit to Israel appear to have steered Israel's decision.

"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," Pompeo said in an interview with Kan 11.

"We think these risks are very real, and we shared with them information about that so that they could make good decisions for themselves," Pompeo added in the interview, in which he also took shot at Beijing for its alleged cover up of China's coronavirus outbreak.

The desalination plant, known as Sorek 2, is set for completion by 2023. The plant aims to convert 200 million cubic metres of drinkable water per year, according to the South China Morning Post.

Israel Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Kan 11 that "it didn't seem to me that this plant was at the forefront of American interests".

Steinitz added that by going with IDE, Israel had saved money.

The Trump administration has made attacks on Beijing a centrepiece of US President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election bid, which has come under pressure for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Earlier this month, Trump blamed Beijing for "mass Worldwide killing", in one of many attacks on China.

The president's ramped up rhetoric came off the back of an apparent truce with China in the trade war between the two powers.

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