The Intersection of Infrastructures: The Role of Haifa in Global Geopolitics

A closer look at how the port of Haifa is at the heart of two infrastructure projects and the challenges it faces amid regional conflicts.

Column of Francesco Grillo for the Italian Newspaper Il Messaggero.

Intreccio infrastrutture

What strikes anyone visiting Israel for the first time is its size. Everything is very small – from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to Jerusalem itself – compared to the space this land occupies in the imagination of a divided humanity. In an area the size of Piedmont (including both states that the UN is trying to coexist), symbols on which the world's civilizations are literally built overlap with one another. And one can't help but wonder why men have kept such dangerously close yet diverse views. This is true even in Haifa, which is quietly one of the most strategic cities in the Mediterranean. It is where two of the most ambitious projects of the twenty-first century intersect. And perhaps, in the port of what was once Israel's first capital, lies the reason for a senseless war.

After World War II, the port of Haifa was where the settlers arrived, determined to build a new state. Today, this port is the only place crossed by the two largest infrastructure projects on the planet: the maritime corridor of the 'Silk Road' that China launched a decade ago to connect Shanghai to Venice through the Suez Canal, and the one that, starting from India through Dubai, would reach Trieste, crossing the Arabian Peninsula with a new high-speed railway. Both projects pass through Haifa. However, they are at risk if the war at the board between Israel and Egypt escalates, extending to the border between Israel and Lebanon.

In Haifa, a significant technological and commercial game has indeed been unfolding for a few years. In 2021, the company managing the Shanghai port won the bid to operate the new terminal in Haifa. A few months later, the Indian multinational led by billionaire Gautam Adani, who is closely associated with Prime Minister Modi, secured the purchase of the remaining part of the port.

Much like Jerusalem, Haifa too encompasses two different worldviews in a relatively small location. Although the port in Haifa handles less than half the cargo of Trieste, it holds strategic importance for three reasons: it benefits from its natural harbor status and its central location in the Mediterranean, akin to Gioia Tauro; it is connected to the Middle East, from which goods from Dubai and fossil fuels from the region would arrive by train; and it is expected to be protected by a sophisticated security apparatus, built by those who, more than anyone else, must coexist with their adversary.

The idea of including Haifa in the negotiations were leading Saudis and Israelis toward normalization. It also played a role in bringing Saudi Arabia, an ally of the Indian project, closer to Iran, which, on the other hand, is part of the Silk Road initiative. Emerging countries tend to be more pragmatic and less ideological than the West, assessing conveniences on a case-by-case basis. This approach extends until the next war, perhaps triggered by those who, for equally economic reasons, oppose the peace agreements required for these major infrastructure projects. The Gaza conflict risks freezing everyone, be it the Indians, the Saudis, or even the Chinese, who have recently hosted the fourth Silk Road forum that recorded reduced participation (and Italy's withdrawal).

In Beijing, as well as in Delhi and major financial institutions, the war poses a significant strategic problem: how can we plan the large global infrastructure projects that the world needs in such an unstable time? Who can finance extensive highways and railways when there is a risk of them being shut down due to war or due to a climate crisis that demands emission-free ports? The Gaza conflict, added to that of Ukraine, marks the end of projects that are too large to be stable and offers four criteria for reorganizing the strategy of infrastructure that crosses different countries.

The future will be primarily characterized by smaller and modular infrastructure that allows for the swift redirection of disrupted traffic. This will have implications on a geopolitics increasingly defined by flexible state alliances, avoiding rigid commitments, and allowing for adaptation to crises. Interventions will place a greater emphasis on environmental considerations, much like the Haifa port, which was awarded based on specifications that emphasize technological solutions ensuring neutrality. Moreover, beyond the slogans about "reshoring" parts of supply chains, it will certainly be advantageous to develop more distributed models for generating critical resources, especially in the energy sector, to reduce the burden on congested logistics networks.

In many different ways, Israel stands at the crossroads of the world, demonstrating effectively that the real solution lies in pragmatically seeking balances that will never be perfect.

Follow Us

Partner

vision and value logo

© Copyright 2024 Vision & Value srl a socio unico | Via dei Banchi Vecchi 58, 00186 ROMA (RM) | P.IVA 04937201004 | Registro delle Imprese di Roma | Nr. REA RM - 819795 | Capitale Sociale: € 45.900,00 i.v.
Credits elmweb