DP World got security clearance to move forward in the bidding process for the port in the northern city of Haifa, according to two people familiar with the matter. Local representatives for Yildirim lodged a complaint about unfair treatment in the process, according to a letter it sent to Israeli officials seen by Bloomberg.
The Government Companies Authority, which is running the privatisation, said Israel is making necessary regulatory checks as part of confirming investors' participation in the Haifa Port privatisation and that the sale is expected to be completed in a few months. Representatives for Yildirim, DP World and the Israeli Defence Ministry declined to comment.
DP World's progress is an important indicator for Israel's new normalisation agreement with the UAE, which was announced last summer. It marks a key nod of approval from Israel when it comes to Emirati involvement in strategic assets. Israel hopes to sell the facility for as much as ILS2 billion (US$612 million).
But while Israel draws closer to Gulf Arab nations, relations with former close ally Turkey have been sour for years over Israel's policy toward the Palestinians. Turkey, which recalled its ambassador to Israel two years ago, is currently seeking to repair its ties with traditional allies but said barriers remain to improving relations.
Economic ties have been resilient throughout the estrangement, but the port sale suggests they may be getting more complicated. In a January 11 letter sent to Israeli ministers overseeing the privatisation process, local representatives for Yildirim said 'the requirement is very puzzling in our eyes.'
They noted Yildirim has previously been cleared by security services in Europe and the US.
Yildirim entered the process in a consortium with Israeli industry veteran Eli Tilles, US-based GraeStone Logistics LLC and cruise port operator Global Port Holding Plc, reports Bloomberg.
'This examination is even more puzzling since a partially governmental Dubai company is participating after the ink dried on the normalisation agreement,' the letter added.
The sale has been shadowed by geopolitical jousting beyond the Middle East, with the Trump administration pressing Israel to be wary of Chinese influence, as a second, Chinese-run port rises nearby. Officials sought American firms to participate in the contest, which has also drawn expressions of interest from more than a dozen parties, including companies in India and Belgium.
No Chinese firms joined the bidding.