By: Mohnish Singh
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday described the Haifa port deal with the Adani Group as an “enormous milestone”, saying it will significantly improve connectivity between the two countries in many ways.
The Port of Haifa is the second largest port in Israel in terms of shipping containers and the biggest in shipping tourist cruise ships.
“I think this is an enormous milestone…Over 100 years ago, and during World World I, it was the brave Indian soldiers who helped liberate the city of Haifa. And today, it’s very robust Indian investors who are helping to liberate the port of Haifa,” Netanyahu said after signing the port book along with Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani.
The Prime Minister said he discussed with his “good friend” Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in this vision of “having connectivity between our countries in many ways, transportation lines and air routes and sea routes…and it’s happening today”.
He said what is happening today has historic importance because what “we see there is a tremendous boost for peace.” Netanyahu said the region will become an entry point and an exit point to a vast number of goods that reach the Mediterranean and Europe directly without having to go around the Arabian peninsula without having to go through three choke points.
“In fact, to have a direct expression of this is a very good investment…,” he added.
A consortium of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) and Israel’s Gadot Group won the tender in July last year to privatise the Port of Haifa for a staggering $1.18 billion.
It completed the process of purchase on January 11 this year, following which upgradation work has been going on in full swing at the port. The Indian partner in the consortium holds 70 per cent of the stake while its Israeli partner Gadot has 30 per cent.
The successful entry of the Adani Group in Israel through its acquisition of the Haifa port is being seen as a “strategic purchase”. It is probably the biggest foreign investment in this country in any sector.
Adani’s company operates 13 sea terminals in India and controls 24 per cent of India’s maritime commerce.
It has no holdings in the West, so its entry into Israel is a signal for increased maritime traffic between Asia and Europe, and the major Asian players’ need for a hub in the Mediterranean.