Israel picks local firm over Chinese for desalination plant

By: AFP      Published: 09:05 PM, 27 May, 2020
Israel picks local firm over Chinese for desalination plant

Israeli authorities on Tuesday named a local company as the winning bidder for a multi-million dollar desalination plant contract, beating out Chinese competition amid reports of pressure from Washington.

IDE Technologies will build the Sorek 2 plant south of Tel Aviv, which by 2023 should be able to produce 200 million cubic metres a year of desalinated water from the Mediterranean, a statement from the finance and energy ministries said.

The new plant will be the largest of its type in the world and increase Israel's desalination capacity by 35 percent, saving the country money on water, the statement said.

It said the plant would save the Israeli government 3.3 billion shekels ($900 million) during its lifetime.

The Israeli company was chosen over Hutchison Water -- part of the Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Group -- less than two weeks after the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a lightning visit to Israel during which he discussed Chinese investments. 

Israel has boosted cooperation with China in the high-tech and other sectors, but its key ally the United States has urged it to limit Chinese investment in strategic sectors of the economy.

In a recent Jerusalem Post commentary, Chinese embassy spokesman Wang Yongjun rejected US warnings calling Sino-Israeli cooperation a "win-win" situation.

In a May 13 interview with public television, Pompeo voiced concern over Beijing gaining "access to Israeli infrastructure" that could "put Israeli citizens at risk," as well as endangering the "capacity for America to work alongside Israel on important projects".

A spokesperson for the Israeli finance ministry would not comment on whether US concerns were a factor in the finance ministry's selection of IDE over Hutchison.

Hutchison Water had partnered with IDE to build and operate the first Sorek desalination plant, which has been providing potable water since 2013.

In 2019, IDE sold its shares in the first Sorek plant.