Daniel Markind

Now, about that Haifa port…

Commenting on United Nations efforts to force a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying on Friday accused the Unites States of “standing on the opposite side of the international community.” Exhibiting unlimited hypocrisy, she added that “what we can feel is that the US keeps saying that it cares about the human rights of Muslims… but it was ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people.”  As if that weren’t enough, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that the United States needed to “adjust its position” on the conflict.

China’s comments were reproduced triumphantly by Iranian state media, which recently signed a 25 year agreement with China. The Sino-Iranian deal gives the Mullahs much needed revenue at a time when their country is diplomatically isolated and their economy reeling from US-driven sanctions.

The Iran agreement shows that for China, any relationship with Israel is purely transactional. From the Chinese perspective, they found a good deal that will supply them with low cost oil and they took it.  They were unconcerned that by doing so they pointed a dagger closer to Israel’s heart.

As China has led international criticism of Israel, the United States has gone the other way, blocking for the third time a UN Security Council Resolution that would have shown equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Bucking the Progressive wing of his own Democratic Party, President Joe Biden has given Israel time and diplomatic support that will enable Israel to extract a terrifying price for the Gaza rocket fire, hopefully to the point that the Lebanese will think twice before allowing Hezbollah to start another, much more deadly, war against Israel.

Indeed while Hamas and Israel both can show achievements over the last week, each has paid a substantial price. It will be years before we can ascertain if the internal Palestinian support Hamas gained by acting while the PA did not during the Sheikh Jarrah affair and by continuing to fire rockets at Israel outweighs the cost of their military apparatus being devastated, their Strip’s infrastructure being demolished and their population’s standard of living being set back at least a decade. While both Israel and Hamas have paid dearly over the last ten days, the emerging winner is the United States, and specifically President Biden.

During the fighting, Biden has sidelined China and Russia, stood behind a key ally as it was attacked from foreign soil, and refused to be intimidated by all the world “pseudo-moralists” who always criticize Israel and accuse it both of disproportionate force and of committing war crimes. In doing so Biden has signaled to all of the signatories of the Abraham Accords that the United States can be counted on for support when the going gets tough. The fact that public criticism of Israel from much of the Arab world has been so muted can be attributed, at least partially, to the unwavering support given to Israel by the United States. That support also has given cover to pro-Israel sentiments from unlikely places like Germany, Austria and Slovenia.

Things can turn on a dime in the Middle East, but by showing such resolve President Biden has dramatically increased his power and leverage both at home and abroad. Should he care to use it, he can be quite tough with the Mexican government for looking the other way and allowing massive amounts of immigrants to transit that country from Central America, precipitating the current US Border Crisis. He can take a much tougher line with China on innumerable issues, such as Taiwan and China’s fishing incursions into other nations’ territorial waters. He also can inform the disaffected members of the Democratic Party that they need him more than he needs them.  If they want to get much of their Progressive agenda passed they had better toe his line on matters critical to him.

At the same time President Biden has every right, indeed even the responsibility, to demand that Israel terminate its agreement with a Chinese company to modernize and run the Port of Haifa, one of the docking ports of the American Sixth Fleet.. Not only does the agreement with Shanghai International Port Group pose a risk to American national security (as every Chinese company must follow the orders of the Chinese Communist Party), it gives a huge economic advantage in dealing with a key Israeli asset to a company located in a nation that now will be financing Israel’s chief existential threat.

Israel has a burgeoning relationship with China, focusing mostly on trade.  Israel does not, however, have any real cultural affinity with the Chinese nor any ability to rely on the Chinese Communist Party when the chips are down. For Israel, the proper move would be to terminate the agreement on its own, and not force American pressure to do so. The United States has stood by Israel during its time of need. It’s time for Israel to return the favor.

About the Author
Daniel B, Markind is an attorney based in Philadelphia specializing in real estate, commercial, energy and aviation law. He is the former Chair of the National Legal Committee of the Jewish National Fund of America as well as being a former member of the National Executive Board and the National Chair of the JNF National Future Leadership. He writes frequently on Middle Eastern and energy issues. Mr. Markind lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and children.
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