China,Israel and Espionage in A Thermal Mug? 

Dr B Thomas (Special correspondent) 

Two weeks ago,the Israeli Minister of Science and Technology,Orit Farkash-Hacohen,received a Pass over gift from the Chinese embassy.

It was a thermal mug,an applaudable gesture and a thoughtful gift from China.

Before it reached the minister, the security forces had a thorough probe as part of the stringent security measures.

The security search found what seems to be a surveillance device in the mug,creating a sense of panic in the air.

Shin Bet or Shabak,the Israel Security Agency (ISA),soon took over the case,investigating if the device found was a spy device or a part of the mug.

ISA cannot be wrong for two reasons;

Primarily,there was no formal announcement about the gift from the Chinese Embassy.Even before,the country was in the news for similar attempts, raising concerns.

China was caught in a conundrum in 2018 over a data leak incident.In 2018, French Newspaper Le Monde reported that China had bugged the African Union’s (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, built by Beijing.

The findings revealed that data from AU had been sent to Shanghai since 2012.

The incident has put Israel on high alert and officials are asked to be cautious.Office of Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli and a few others are also reported to have received similar gifts.

The government has advised the officials not to accept gifts from international entities without ISA’s intervention.Shin Bet has collected all the presents and is assessing the devices.

China and Israel have been in good ties for over 30 years.The duo has strong military and trade relations.

However,the Israeli embassy has not fallen for China’s statements saying that the media spreads rumors and that the device found is a getter,a part of thermal mugs.

None of Israel’s claims can be ignored.The Institute of National Security Studies report says China needs several technologies developed by Israel and both countries signed the Comprehensive Partnership for Innovation in 2017.

It is likely that China’s intelligence agencies are working in Israel to attain its objectives in espionage efforts,as well as in other countries of value to it,the report says.

Israel’s technological competencies and security system were capable of identifying such an intrusion.

If countries with tech prowess are prey to Chinese espionage,how severe would it be for the other nations with lessor support? This might be an attempt for China to be a superpower,but the incident may tarnish the positive perceptions China built over the years.