US National Security Adviser John Bolton raised concerns to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment in sensitive sectors in Israel, a US official told Reuters on Wednesday.
The senior administration official, who was briefed on talks between Bolton and Netanyahu over the weekend, said that talks addressed US concerns that Chinese involvement in certain sectors in Israel could enable intellectual property theft and intelligence gathering by China.
“We are all concerned about theft of intellectual property and Chinese telecoms companies that are being used by China for intelligence-gathering purposes,” he said, noting that the US doesn’t want any obstacles to being able to share sensitive information with Israel.
The official also made special reference to Chinese technology and investment at the port in Haifa, an issue which he said had specifically been put on the agenda for the talks between Bolton and Netanyahu. In 2015, China's Shanghai International Port Group won the tender to build and operate the new port in Haifa, a major berth for the US Navy's Sixth Fleet, for 25 years starting in 2021.
The report comes as Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman reportedly cautioned against massive Chinese investments in Israel, and warned that a certain unnamed country planned to interfere in upcoming Israeli elections.
According to a Channel 10 report on Wednesday, Argaman said at a closed lecture at Tel Aviv University that "The Chinese influence in Israel is particularly dangerous in everything connected to strategic infrastructure and investments in large companies in the economy."
Argaman pointed to the fact that Chinese companies are building the new port in Haifa and the light rail in Tel Aviv, as well as to attempts by Chinese companies to acquire the Phoenix and Clal insurance companies.
He said that, in his opinion, legislation was needed to supervise Chinese investment in Israel. "Israeli law is lagging behind security needs in terms of supervision of investments by foreign countries, and this may be dangerous. Legislation is needed.”
It was also reported that the head of the Shin Bet was the leading source in the defense establishment whose concern about the Chinese resulted in the cancellation of the acquisition of the Phoenix insurance company by a Chinese company.