China lost its bid to run Israel's biggest desalination plant after alleged pressure from the United States, Ynet learned on Tuesday. Local company IDE Technologies was chosen over the Hong Kong-based rival.
The news comes two weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly voiced his concerns to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about China's potential involvement in the Shorek 2 plant, located in Palmachim in central Israel.
Although the decision eases tension with the U.S. it could potentially lead to a confrontation with the Chinese government.
The plant, which appears to also be the biggest in the world of its kind, was set to be run by a Chinese-linked company called Hutchison Holdings.
The project, to be financed by a consortium of banks including Bank Leumi, Germany's KfW and the European Investment Bank.
The plant is expected to produce over 200 million cubic meters of water per day and is set to increase Israel's desalination capacity by about 35%.
State Department and Pompeo have in recent weeks launched a number of verbal attacks on the Chinese government, accusing it of covering up the severity of the disease, when it initially broke out in the city of Wuhan in December of 2019, and trying to take over the world's infrastructure.
"In particular there’s the issue of strategic investment, that there is no such thing as a privately owned, independent company in China, right." the official said. "If you use Huawei, if you use any type of company that has access to your DNA, that DNA becomes property and that information becomes property of the Chinese Communist Party."
Two weeks ago, during Pompeo's visit to Israel, a U.S. official hinted that Israel's continued cooperation with China might be "dangerous" in light of the current coronavirus outbreak and could undermine the relations with its "strategic partners".
Reuters contributed to this report