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US Warns Israel of `Risks' of Chinese Business Dealings

By JNS & DEBKAfile

Following pressure by the United States, Israel will review the bid of a Hong Kong-based company for the construction of what is expected to be the world's largest desalination plant—worth $1.5 billion. The issue of Chinese influence, which includes CK Hutchison Holdings' bid for the "Sorek B" desalination plant, in Israel's economy is expected to be one of the topics discussed when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the Jewish state on Wednesday. "As the Secretary has repeatedly stated, the United States strives for trade and investment on fair and reciprocal terms, with reliable partners, for long-term mutual benefit," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Axios. "China's business dealings, by contrast, are often opaque, transactional and geared to benefit the Chinese Communist Party. We speak often to our friends in Israel about these risks and stand ready to help." In August 2019, Pompeo told JNS, "We want to make sure that Israeli citizens don't have their private information stolen by the Chinese Communist Party. Using China as an interconnector, as a backbone for a network, puts at risk that network. It makes a likelihood that we will not deem that network trusted, and the United States has a policy of not permitting American information to flow across networks that aren't trusted." Israeli officials told Axios that CK Hutchison Holdings has a good chance of being awarded the government tender for the desalination plant, which is expected to produce 200 billion liters of water annually, or a quarter of Israel's overall water consumption. After U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman asked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week to interfere in the matter, the latter called for a new government committee to monitor foreign investments in Israel. The Trump administration does not view the new Israeli government's July 1 deadline to begin the process of applying sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as a "do or die" date, a senior US official told Barak Ravid of Channel 13 News on Tuesday. The coalition deal that allowed Netanyahu to form a new government says he can bring "the understandings with the Trump administration" on sovereignty up for a vote in the cabinet or in the Knesset as early as July 1 — but only with the full agreement of the White House. Pompeo was non-committal on the timetable for sovereignty in an interview published on Tuesday in the Israel Hayom newspaper, saying that the decision to apply sovereignty is Israel's to make. "I've said in the past that this is Israel's decision to make. I want to understand what the new government thinks about that," he said. Pompeo is not expected to make any commitments on this issue while in Israel, in public statements or behind closed doors, officials told Ravid. The US officials said their focus is on the coronavirus crisis, and it would be premature to move forward on this issue. At the same time, the Trump administration continues to warn the Palestinians that their decision to boycott talks will not work out in their favor. "If the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage and don't come to the table it could have negative consequences for them and it will make our decision-making regarding annexation much easier," a US official told Ravid. Palestinian Authority leaders have rejected Trump's proposal outright, and dismiss the idea that his administration could mediate impartially on this issue. Pompeo's Wednesday's meeting ends a pause in his international travels due to coronavirus. The first high-ranking foreign official to visit Israel since the outbreak of coronavirus will, like his hosts, will first be tested for the virus, wear masked and curb friendly gestures. The visitor will no doubt try and find out whether Netanyahu intends to go through with announcing the annexation of areas of Judea, Samaria and Jordan Valley as soon as July 1 as allowed under the Trump peace plan and the coalition deal with Gantz. The peace plan also offers the Palestinians an independent through demilitarized state, which has raised objections to Netanyahu's compliance in nationalist circles to the right of the new government. The coalition deal stipulates that Israel must take into account regional stability and existing peace agreements when going forward with annexation. Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations to have signed peace accords with Israel, have voiced strong objections to the step along with other Arab leaders. Both have developed important security interdependence with Israel and may be content with strong rhetoric. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has put before the PLO executive a radical plan. He wants support for his decision to dissolve the dissolve the Palestinian Authority if the Netanyahu-Gantz government annexes one inch of the West Bank. By breaking up the PA, Abbas intends to saddle Israel with the administration and care for all civic needs of two million Palestinian denizens of the territory – health, water, economy, jobs etc.

Poll: Eastern Jerusalem Arabs Say they want to be Part of `Palestine'

By World Israel News

A new poll finds a dramatic shift in thinking among residents of heavily Arab eastern Jerusalem, with only a small percentage saying they now prefer Israeli over Palestinian citizenship. The poll found that only 15% of eastern Jerusalem Arab residents surveyed said they would pick Israeli citizenship. Between 2010 and 2015, a slight majority, 52%, said they would rather be Israeli. The surveys, which were conducted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy together with Palestinian pollsters, took place throughout 2018-2019 and in January and February of 2020. Dr. David Pollock, a senior member of the institute, directed the polling. Pollack parsed the results during an online event sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. "They wanted more comfortable access to work, education, healthcare, welfare and social services, and even to the sea," Pollack, who has polled Palestinian attitudes since 2010, said of earlier survey results. But in the past five years, there has been a dramatic change, which I, as a veteran pollster, have never seen anything like it. All of a sudden support dropped between 15% to 52%, and only a small minority of east Jerusalem residents now say in polls that if they had the choice, they would choose Israeli citizenship."

The second reason is religious. The Palestinians have come to believe that Israel poses a threat to the Muslim presence on the Temple Mount, noting recent tensions surrounding the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam. A third factor is "increased anti-Israel activity in east Jerusalem on the part of the Palestinian Authority, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Turkey and other elements. The fact that 150,000 residents of east Jerusalem currently live `beyond the security barrier' – impeding their access to Israeli services – also influences the sharp change in their positions." He also said most Palestinians say that Israel is illegitimate and would like to see it disappear and a Palestinian state rise up on its ashes. "However, they are realistic enough to tell pollsters this is `a dream' and that `Israel is here to stay,'" he said.

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