Israel Violates Iran’s Sanctions / Ohad Shpak, TheMarker (Haaretz Group)

Ohad Shpak Law Office
Ohad Shpak Law Office

Israel violates sanctions placed on Iran / The Marker, June 13th 2019

While the above title sounds fictitious, it threatens to soon become a reality if Israel continues to endorse Chinese companies and act contrary to the US position.

“The Israeli government is in violation of the US imposed sanctions on
Iran, and the Washington administration is considering imposing personal
sanctions on individual Israeli government officials. ” This quote was
never actually stated by anyone and the chances of this happening are close to none.  However, in recent years there has been a trend of Israeli government bodies that endorse Chinese companies who trade with Iran and thus blatantly breach of U.S. imposed sanctions.

The past decade has seen a significant strengthening of the political and economic and ties between Israel and China as a part of the comprehensive foreign policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who aims to deepen state relations with Asian countries. This policy would allow Israel to be less dependent on the United States as Israel’s only ally and anchor in matters of political policy and state security, as well as provide Israel with alternatives to the European Union as their primary trading partner.


This strategy however, and the rapprochement between Israel and the Chinese superpower, may have seemingly unpredictable adverse consequences given the current status quo.  The reason for this is due to the growing ties between China and another country in the Middle East– Iran.


A growing number of Chinese companies have been finding their  way to construction sites and major infrastructure projects in Israel in recent years: A Chinese government-owned excavation company was chosen to build the new port in the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, another Chinese company received the franchise rights for 25 years to operate a new port, which will be established in Haifa, and various other Chinese companies are involved in the construction and operation of the new Tel- Aviv light rail.


A new study published by the U.S. RAND Corporation (“Research and
Development”), an American nonprofit global thinktank, found that 11 of the 42 Chinese companies that are significantly involved in investments and infrastructure projects in Israel, could raise real concerns – whether because of said companies’ affiliation with the Chinese army or government, or whether because of security or privacy repercussions due to China’s relations with Iran.


In fact, despite the increasing U.S. sanctions, some of the Chinese companies currently involved in large-scale projects in Israel are also doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Take for example the giant telecommunications corporation ZTE, which sold surveillance and spyware to Iran, and in retaliation, in March 2017 the U.S. penalized the company with a 900 million dollar fine. This very same entity also happens to have investments in Israel. Another example of the indirect links between Israel and Iran through Chinese government companies is the case of the China Railway Tunnel Group which ,in May 2015, won a 800 million dollar tender to construct part of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa light rail “Red line” -just three months after the company’s owners began a 2 billion dollar project to build a rail line between Tehran, Qom, and Isfahan.


That is not all.  Recently, it came to light that the Chinese company responsible for the maintenance of light rail in Tel Aviv will be simultaneously providing light rail cars throughout Iran.


Astonishingly, the Israeli government is allowing a foothold for Chinese
companies despite their being deeply involved with Iran. This trend is all the more shocking in light of the new sanctions imposed by the U.S. government on the Islamic Republic and its subsequent bodies, personalities and officials.

Admittedly, the lack of any consistent government policy on the subject of Israeli-Chinese relations and authorizing Chinese involvement in significant projects in Israel is not surprising. The implication of this being that government decisions could expose Israeli government officials to future U.S. imposed personal sanctions. It is critical that we are aware of this possibility and remain wary of the fact that increasing Chinese involvement in Israel will necessarily hurt Israel’s strategic ties with the U.S.


Israel greatly benefits from its economic ties with China, but one thing is
certain: that these ties, however important they may be, cannot come at the
expense of Israel’s security and political interests, and cannot give Iran’s
partners a foothold in our backyard.

(For the article in TheMarker newspaper in Hebrew – click here)

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