Two Israeli Ministers Receive Mugs Containing 'Surprise' From Chinese Embassy, Local Media Claims
12:57 GMT 12.04.2022 (Updated: 17:25 GMT 15.01.2023)
The Israeli security agency Shin Bet is reportedly investigating the incident and checking other souvenirs purportedly sent by the embassy. China and Israel maintain close relations and are considering joint economic projects despite reported pressure by the US on Tel Aviv to drop them.
The Chinese Embassy in Israel sent several travel mugs allegedly containing spying devices as gifts to at least two Israeli ministers, several Israeli media outlets have reported.
According to the Walla news site, citing an anonymous Israeli official, one mug was sent to Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen. Another one was reportedly sent to the office of Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli. The Culture and Sports Ministry were also notified by the Chinese Embassy that souvenir mugs were sent to them as well, Haaretz reported.
The suspicious hidden content of the mugs was discovered during a routine security check, Israeli Army Radio reported. The Israeli media reports claimed that the mugs were wiretapped and that the security agency Shin Bet has been alerted about the incident. The nation's Foreign Ministry was also looking into the matter, Israel's Channel 12 reported.
All of the mugs sent by the Chinese Embassy will be inspected and government offices in Israel were subsequently warned to be extra careful about any souvenirs they've received, the media said. The Chinese Embassy has not yet commented on media reports.
Israel and China are considering a number of joint economic projects, including the construction of a new port terminal in Haifa capable of hosting vessels of about 400 metres in length and carrying about 18,000 containers each.
This cooperation, however, is opposed by Israel's main ally – the US. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly cautioned his Israeli colleague Yair Lapid that China's investments in Israel carry "risks to shared national security interests". CIA Director Bill Burns also cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett against agreeing to Beijing's offer of building a port in Haifa.
Washington's opposition to this project comes amid a continuing rivalry with China in certain areas, including opposition to Beijing's economic expansion and joint venture projects with other nations in Asia and beyond. The White House also claims that Beijing tries to subject these countries to its political will by offering them lucrative loans for infrastructure development.