IDE Technologies, which specializes in water treatment solutions, won the bid for construction and operation of the Soreq 2 desalination plant. According to a May 24, 2020 Finance Ministry statement, the Israeli company was chosen over Hong Kong-based Hutchison on the basis of pricing considerations. The media, however, cast the decision as accession to a demand by the United States relayed during the recent visit to Israel by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned against Chinese involvement in infrastructures. Despite the sense of relief, the resolution of the Soreq 2 affair has postponed but not eliminated a crisis between Jerusalem and Washington. The Israeli government has therefore won a reprieve in which it can take action now so as to prevent a future crisis.
The regimes in Egypt and the Gulf states are trying to earn an image of tolerance toward Judaism. The trend is evident in declarations by Muslim clerics, television productions during Ramadan, and the renovation and construction of synagogues. These expressions of tolerance reflect an instrumentalist approach by the regimes, joining deep social processes that support promotion of the values of openness and multiculturalism. Despite the dualism in Egypt and the Gulf states of a positive attitude toward Judaism alongside belligerence toward Israel, the discourse of tolerance contributes to strengthening the concept of the Jews as belonging to the regional fabric, and in the future it may even help warm relations between the peoples and countries of the region and Israel. Israel, for its part, would do well to avoid politicizing the significant tolerance processes in order not to harm their public legitimization and delay their advancement.
Turkey’s military intervention in Libya has recently enabled a series of victories for the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), to the detriment of Khalifa Haftar and his backers in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Moscow. The reversal of fortune for the GNA, which over the weekend forced Haftar to propose a ceasefire, marks a major shift in the trajectory of the Libyan civil war and will likely cement Turkey’s role as a key arbiter in the ultimate resolution of the conflict. Should the recent developments prove durable, Turkey will exert significant influence in the North African country, enabling Ankara to project power across the Eastern Mediterranean region and further challenge Israeli interests in the region, along with those of Israel’s Egyptian, Cypriot, and Greek partners.
Tension and rivalries within the Sunni camp are a defining aspect of the Middle East. The Sunni states are divided in part according to their respective levels of support for different shades of political Islam. In addition, Sunni states contest for status and influence in the region, and this rivalry also necessarily involves economic interests. The tension is reflected in the ongoing siege against Qatar, in the support of rival parties in the civil war in Libya, and in the competition over control of strategic locations along the Red Sea coast. Over the years, Israel has gone from a force that unifies the Sunni world to one that divides it: Turkey and Qatar are critical of Egypt and the Gulf states for not doing enough to stop Israel from taking unilateral actions in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Israel, for its part, seeks to maintain good relations with all the Sunni states. However, regarding rival parties in the Sunni world, Israel has a clear interest in the Gulf states and Egypt having the upper hand.
The National Security in Hong Kong Law, adopted recently at the annual gathering of the Two Sessions (“Lianghui”) of the People’s Congress in China, reflects Beijing’s interest in preserving Chinese sovereignty in face of “concerns regarding foreign intervention” in territories that are defined as a “core interest.” After the law’s enactment, the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada issued a joint statement expressing deep concern regarding the legislation. Still, their response was relatively moderate and included no practical aspects. President Donald Trump stated that the United States will no longer recognize Hong Kong’s status of a special international trade zone. The law’s significance goes beyond the context of Hong Kong alone; it is a clear message that China will take all measures it deems necessary to maintain stability, unity, and Chinese sovereignty. For Israel, Hong Kong still constitutes a bridge for trade with Asia, as well as an additional commercial gate of entry into China. Thus far, Israel has not made a public statement regarding the disturbances in Hong Kong, and it is advised to continue this reticence.
In cyber warfare, an attack on essential civilian infrastructure is considered a serious attack. According to media reports, Iran attacked Israel’s water infrastructure, and Israel responded with a cyberattack against infrastructure at the Iranian port in Bandar Abbas. While these were not the first attacks between the two countries, they illustrate that the conflict theater includes essential civilian infrastructure. Israel has so far managed to deal with cyberattacks against civilian infrastructure without suffering much damage, but it may become more vulnerable as the cyber arms race accelerates and Iran gains more sophisticated capabilities. Israel must assume that in the cyber realm, there will be further and more sophisticated attempts to attack than those that have been seen thus far.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in of the new government regarding the intention to annex territory in the West Bank with a declaration of disengagement from all agreements between the PLO and Israel and the United States, including the Oslo Accords and other subsequent agreements.
The current economic crisis in the Gulf states stems from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on both the local and global economies, including the sharp drop in oil prices.
The US administration, considers the appointment of Iraqi National Intelligence Service head Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Prime Minister of Iraq as an opportunity to reinforce the US hold in Iraq and counter Iran’s efforts to consolidate its influence there.
The Chinese global “donation drive” in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis has sparked criticism of Beijing in the international arena. United States and international elements claim that China is using “mask diplomacy” intentionally, to leverage its contributions for political purposes. Indeed, it appears that both Chinese corporations and the Chinese government are exploiting the opportunity created by the pandemic with shipments of donated aid, partly as a way of posing an alternative to the United States as a global leader.