Pompeo, During Lightning Visit, Said to Urge Israel to Be Wary of Chinese Investment

With tensions rising between Washington and Beijing, the top US diplomat reportedly emphasized to senior Israeli officials the potential national security risks vis-à-vis China

Photo: AP

One of the main reasons for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's six-hour visit to Israel on May 13 was to urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to promote Chinese investment in the country, Israeli media reports said.
 
Israel's public broadcasting station quoted an American official as saying that US opposition to Chinese involvement in Israel has grown due to the way that Beijing has handled the coronavirus crisis. 
 
The Israelis and the world need to be careful of the Chinese, the official said, asserting that every Chinese investment will cause a leak of information from the country where the investment is made. Countries need to protect their interests and not strengthen the Chinese communist party, according to the official. 
 
The US has previously expressed concern about Chinese investment in Israel's key industries. 
 
In a separate report, an unidentified State Department official confirmed that one of the purposes of the visit was to discuss Israel's relations with China. The threat from Iran and Israel's plan to annex parts of Judea and Samaria were main items on the agenda as well, the official said. 
 
Israel's public broadcasting station also quoted an American official as saying that now is the opportunity to fight more effectively against Iran's hostile actions, as Iran is in a position of weakness due to US sanctions and the coronavirus crisis. 
 
According to commentators, the top US diplomat would not have flown all the way to Israel for a few hours of face-to-face meetings amid the pandemic unless there were extremely important matters to discuss. The secretary of state was said to be the first foreign official to visit the country since January. 
 
Pompeo has accused China of allowing the virus to spread worldwide by intentionally downplaying it at an early stage.
  
At a joint press conference before his talks with Pompeo in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the fact that the top US diplomat had flown to Israel for just a six-hour visit was "a testament to the strength of our alliance."
 
On his part, Pompeo praised Israel's cooperation with the US on fighting the pandemic, contrasting it with the manner in which China has handled the crisis. He did not mention China by name but left no doubt about which country he was referring to, as he has specifically accused Beijing of concealing coronavirus-related information.
 
"You're a great partner. You share information, unlike some other countries that try and obfuscate and hide that information. And we're going to talk about that country too," Pompeo said.
 
Both Netanyahu and Pompeo said they would discuss the threat of Iran that continues to promote terror in the region and worldwide. 
  
Following the talks, the secretary of state met with former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, chairman of the Blue and White party, who is expected to be appointed as defense minister and later succeed Netanyahu under a power-sharing deal.   
 
All those who came into contact with the top US diplomat during his visit, and everyone aboard the flight to Israel, were said to have been tested for coronavirus.