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The U.S. has raised concerns about Chinese investment in the Port of Haifa project. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

While visiting Israel last week, CIA director Bill Burns told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett the U.S. was concerned about Chinese investments in Israel, particularly in the tech sector, and involvement in major infrastructure projects, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: That's the highest level at which the Biden administration has raised an issue that previously became a rare point of contention between the Trump and Netanyahu governments.

  • The Trump administration had warned that further Chinese involvement in big infrastructure projects, like the new port in Haifa, could damage the U.S.-Israel security relationship.
  • But the Netanyahu government had made a priority of deepening ties with China and dragged its feet on the issue, despite pledging to change course.

Bennett told Burns that Israel understands the U.S. concerns and shares some of them.

  • As an example, he mentioned recent press reports about a wide-ranging Chinese cyberattack against Israeli tech companies two years ago, Israeli officials said.

What they're saying: "In recent months, we started a dialogue with the Biden administration on China. The U.S. asked about specific projects like the Chinese involvement in the Tel Aviv metro. We told the Americans we welcome U.S. infrastructure companies to work on big projects in Israel but they don’t apply to the tenders," a senior Israeli official told me.

  • Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing last week, State Department and Pentagon officials said the Biden administration had warned its partners in the Middle East that China wasn't interested in their security needs or in regional stability and that further Chinese involvement could eventually compromise their sovereignty and security relationships with the U.S.
  • “We know our partners and allies in the Middle East have trade relations with China and that’s OK, … but we made it clear that there is a certain kind of cooperation with China we cannot live with," said the State Department's Mira Resnick.

What’s next: Israeli officials expect more talks on this issue in the coming months between the Israeli National Security Council, which is coordinating policy on China, and the White House.

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2021 - Technology

Sen. Kelly: U.S. must develop new military tech to prevent future conflicts

Developing new military technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be necessary to prevent a war with China or other adversaries, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said at an Axios event Friday.

Why it matters: With the war on terror ramping down and competition with China increasing, Kelly said it's time for the U.S. to adapt its military technology to address threats in the western Pacific, specifically China.

U.S. elected to rejoin UN Human Rights Council after exit under Trump

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has been elected to rejoin on the UN Human Rights Council, the State Department announced Thursday, three years after former President Trump walked out on the panel citing bias against Israel.

Flashback: The Biden administration announced in February it planned to rejoin the council, acknowledging what it called an "unacceptable bias against Israel," but arguing that being a member would help the U.S. advance its own interests.

UNC race conscious admissions process upheld by judge

Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can continue its race conscious admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could end up in the Supreme Court after the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vowed to appeal the judge's ruling that UNC didn't discriminate against against white and Asian American applicants in its policy that it said was designed to increase diversity.

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