US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to arrive in Israel on May 13. Though there are many issues on his agenda, one specific topic is particularly sensitive, since it revolves around tiny Israel’s involvement in the worsening clash between Washington and Beijing. The Americans are worried that the Chinese firm Hutchison will win the tender to build the world’s largest desalination plant planned for the Palmahim Mediterranean coast in the south of Israel.
The facility, known as Sorek 2, will produce 200 million cubic meters of drinking water per year, raising the total water processed in Israeli desalination plants to 786 million cubic meters per year. This amounts to some 85% of all domestic and municipal consumption per year. The tender is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. Whoever wins it will operate the facility for 25 years. According to Barak Ravid of Channel 13 News, the US administration has asked Israel to reassess Hutchison’s participation in the bidding, even though it has already reached the final stage of the tender. According to various diplomatic sources, messages sent by Washington to Jerusalem were unequivocal about the matter.