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Israeli minister warns as US presses on China ties: We are in a cold war


Israel is committed to working with trusted communication infrastructure for its own national security, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said at the Cybertech New York conference on Wednesday.

Hendel’s speech came a day after meetings in Washington, in which US officials expressed concern to the minister about possible Chinese involvement in Israel’s 5G networks.

“We are currently in a new, unfamiliar type of war – a 5G cold war,” Hendel said at the cybertech conference. “In this cold war, Israel is committed to trusted networks, first of all, because of its own national security interests.”

Hendel warned that “communication infrastructure is sensitive and tends to be the weak link in the cyber world…. That is why I am here in the US, Israel’s best ally.”

The Biden administration has been working more intensely with Israel than the previous administration to ensure that the core of Israel’s 5G Internet network will not be Chinese, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

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 Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel speaking at a conference. (credit: Boaz Perelstein Courtesy of the Hartman Institute) Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel speaking at a conference. (credit: Boaz Perelstein Courtesy of the Hartman Institute)

Israel’s expectation is that the US will help find affordable alternatives to Chinese 5G networks, which cost much less than using Western companies to build the networks, in order to create “clean” networks, as the US calls them.

Washington is concerned that Chinese-built 5G networks will be vulnerable to hacking and used for espionage.

When National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata visited Washington earlier this month, US officials called on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to establish a more robust screen system for foreign investments on essential infrastructure and technology, in light of China’s many bids in those areas.

Hendel met with US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, Federal Communications Commission chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, US Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez, and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs nominee Barbara Leaf, among others.

Another issue of particular interest to many of his interlocutors is Hendel’s plan to investigate how social media companies censor and boost content, and to consider holding them legally accountable for that content. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband chairman Sen. Ben Ray Luján discussed the matter with Hendel.

He also met with senior executives at Google, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Sysco, Disney and others to hear their concerns about Israel’s regulatory environment.

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