Archive for the ‘Diplomacy’ Category

Danny Ayalon to Norway: Why can’t you keep your artists under control?

November 16, 2010 4 comments


The Israeli government reaction to the homegrown cultural boycott of the West Bank settlement of Ariel was forceful and blunt: Threaten funding, establish a “Zionist Art Prize” and de-legitimize whoever takes part as fifth-columnists. This should not have been a surprise, coming from a government that has overseen an unprecedented assault on domestic freedom of expression and association. The campaign has been so successful locally that the Foreign Ministry is now trying it on the international stage.

Here’s how the Israeli Embassy in Santiago dealt with reporting about a Chilean tourist beaten half to death in Jerusalem because he resembled a Palestinian:

“The incident has been blown up here out of all proportion also by members of parliament of Palestinian extraction who took advantage of it to accuse Israel of racism after it was reported that he might have been attacked because of an Arab appearence,” [Ambassador David] Dadon told Haaretz yesterday [November 10 2010]. “Following our swift and tough response, the matter was immediately removed from the media’s agenda.”

Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon expects foreign governments to adopt the Israeli standard in its entirety, at least on all things Palestinian. This morning’s [November 15 2010] Yediot reports [full translation at bottom of post; Hebrew original here]:

A severe diplomatic crisis has erupted between Israel and the Norwegian authorities. Israel has accused the Norwegian government of financing and promoting blatant anti-Israel incitement.

The article then lists a series of of Norwegian of cultural projects funded by the Norwegian government that the Foreign Ministry doesn’t like. This has been going on for a while. What brought on the “severe diplomatic crisis”? Hutzpah, apparently. Not only did the Norwegians refuse the Israeli dictate, they had the gall to cite democratic principles:

The Norwegians informed Israel in response that this was a matter of freedom of speech and that the government did not meddle in artistic content.

One can hardly blame the Deputy Minister. In Israel, suppression of information and opinions at odds with government policy has become normative. Ayalon probably thought the Norwegians were sandbagging him.

Apparently, the trigger for the Israeli diplomatic assault was this sinister piece of propaganda:

According to reports that have reached the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the city of Trondheim, Norway, is paying for a trip to New York by a group of high school pupils who are taking part in a play called Gaza Monologues. The play deals with “the suffering of children in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.” The play, which was written by a Palestinian man from Gaza, will be performed in the UN building.

The play’s website lists EED, Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst — Church Development Service, a government-funded association of the Protestant Churches in Germany. The government of Germany is also directly involved in funding the play through DED, the German development service. If Israel’s ire in the case of Norway was sparked by a municipality sponsoring a few kids trip to New York, what can the Germans expect when Ayalon’s staffers discover that the federal government is behind the play?

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Lieberman says Israel’s borders “imperialist” and “arbitrary”

November 15, 2010 5 comments


“Anti-Zionism” can be found in surprising places. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was up in the Golan Heights on Thursday. The settlement of Katzrin awarded him “honorary citizenship of the city.”

The Israeli media provided superficial reporting of Lieberman’s acceptance speech, with only generalities regarding his hard-line positions diplomatic issues coming through.  IBA Radio’s diplomatic correspondent, Shmulik Tal, a diligent government stenographer, was more thorough, relaying other elements of the acceptance speech.

Without Tal’s discipline, this little scrap of insight might have been lost [Evening Newsmagazine, November 11 2010 17:11; recording here]:

[…] Shmulik Tal: The Foreign Minister said in Katzrin that the Golan Heights’ annexation [sic] to Syria was incidental and that it was a mistake. This mistake was made 94 years ago, but today the Golan Heights’ are Israeli territory and that is how they will remain. Lieberman: It was an imperialist agreement, between Sykes and Picot, between England and France. In 1916 the Golan was transferred to Syria. It was something arbitrary and that’s why I think that, from every perspective, the Golan must stay, must be the entry gate [sic] to Israel. […]

If the name Sykes-Picot doesn’t ring a bell for you, then you probably didn’t go to an Israeli high-school in the ’80s. I did and there is no chance that I will ever forget the names of these two obscure diplomats. The history curriculum was heavily focused on the origins and development of Zionism. To make it successfully through matriculation, one had to remember an awful lot of details from the early 20th century.

If you’re a poor memorizer like me, systems are important. Regarding diplomatic history, I had a simply structured chain, resembling the verse of a Dry Bones song.  The establishment of the State in 1948 was the “head bone”  and everything started in 1916 with the “toe bone” — the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which carved up the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France.

Now the Israeli Foreign Minister was calling “arbitrary” an agreement that I was taught to believe underpinned, along with another “imperialist” document, the Balfour Declaration, the official narrative of Israel’s international legitimacy. Had things changed that much in the space of 25 years? Not according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Paragraphs 4-5 of its translation of the Declaration of Independence look like this:

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country. This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

Those are the only two hyperlinks in the document and they both lead to Foreign Ministry renditions. With slight modifications, the Sykes-Picot Agreement drew the map of the British Mandate. Destruction of internationally recognized borders has become a characteristic of de facto Israeli foreign policy. The 1967 borders, recognized by UNSC 242, the Algiers Declaration and the Arab Peace Initiative, have all but disappeared under the weight of the settlements and the separation barrier. That line is also being wiped away by the reopening of 1948 in places like Sheikh Jarrah and Ajami.

Still, to a layman, Lieberman’s latest revisionism appears to be exceptional. When Israel annexed the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Begin cited recent events. Even the “Jordan is Palestine” idea is premised on the Mandate borders. It seems that previous generations of Israeli leaders understood that de-legitimization of the “arbitrary” Sykes-Picot Agreement is a two-way street. The Israeli-Lebanese border, for example, is obviously “a mistake.” Demography suggests a route further to the south, topography — one further to the north.

But that’s not the least of it. When was the last time you heard a Zionist use the term “imperialist”? You probably haven’t, because over much of recent history anti-Zionism has been closely associated with anti-imperialism.

I’m increasingly hesitant to position myself or others in relation to Zionism because it has become a very ambiguous term. Lieberman, however, is clearly an anti-Zionist, at least as generations of Israelis were taught to understand the term.

“Combating de-legitimization” is the flavor of the year in pro-Israel advocacy. Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League is leading the charge in the US. But who is a bigger “de-legitimization” threat: Israel’s radical Foreign Minister, or one of his favorite targets, an organization of young Jewish-Americans protesting the occupation?

Categories: Diplomacy

Yediot: NIS 9 million for settlement “tourism”, including 2 million for “City of David” in Silwan

September 20, 2010 9 comments

The fact that these grants will fund highly politicized and inflammatory projects is best exemplified by the NIS 2 million slated for the “City of David” project in Silwan. This East Jerusalem settlement in the guise of an “archeological park” is at the cutting edge of efforts to insert Israelis in Palestinian communities around the Old City basin.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov [Israel Beiteinu] provides a policy-oriented explanation for the funding:

“The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for [the] ‘Every Jew’s Story’ [campaign] and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

It would be a stretch, however, to think that he actually believes this claptrap. Misezhnikov is a politician using his position to dole out pork to allies.

Last week Haaretz reported on a new domestic campaign, which aims to re-brand the West Bank settlements as pastoral tourist attractions. The settlers running it appear to actually believe that they are exposing an obscured reality, restoring the objectively positive image stolen from them. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Masika:

Settlement’s biggest enemy is ignorance. That’s the place where prejudice takes hold, fertile ground for hatred and blood libels against us. We can change this situation through these tours.

From a narrow Israeli perspective, maybe they’re right. Within our Orwellian public debate, it’s often hard discern which perception of reality is upside-down.


Tourism Minister establishing facts on the ground in territories

Yuval Karni, Yediot, September 20 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

While the Americans are struggling to arrange a continued construction freeze in the territories, there are those in Israel who are already preparing vigorously for the next stage.  Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov intends to transfer in the near future millions of shekels to settlements in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of developing tourist sites and attractions in the territories.

An internal Tourism Ministry document shows that in total, over NIS 9 million will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.  Minister Misezhnikov, who is strongly opposed to the freeze, wishes to let the local authorities develop the tourism branch within their boundaries.

Many areas in Judea and Samaria will enjoy the benefit of the large budgets that the ministry stands to transfer.  The Samaria Regional Council will receive NIS 300,000 for tourism projects within its jurisdiction (signs in the Reihan forest, paving bicycle trails in the Shaked forest), the Binyamin Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 for putting up signs in tourist sites, the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 to develop the Susya historical site, the share of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council will be NIS 100,000 for developing bicycle trails in Nahal Kaneh, and the Kiryat Arba Local Council will receive NIS 40,000 for planning tourism projects.

The big money will be given to the Etzion Bloc, the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem.  The Tourism Ministry will transfer NIS 1.5 million for renovation and upgrading of the Herodion site within the boundaries of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, about NIS 2 million to the Kasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Jordan Valley, and about NIS 5 million for developing projects in East Jerusalem: NIS 2 million for the City of David, NIS 1.5 million for Zedekiah’s Cave and NIS 1.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the Old City.

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov sent letters yesterday to mayors in Judea and Samaria and explained that he considered this a Jewish-Zionist necessity.  “The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for ‘Every Jew’s Story’ and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote.  “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”

In the letter, the tourism minister notes that upon the expiration of the security cabinet’s decision to suspend construction in Judea and Samaria, “I have decided to budget infrastructure, tourism and public projects throughout Judea and Samaria.”  The minister also instructed the settler leaders to turn to Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General for Infrastructure and Investments Shai Weiner in order to receive a commitment for promoting projects in the territories.

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Yediot: Despite Berlusconi’s promises, Italy remains “an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy”

September 15, 2010 5 comments

Paper sanctions

Menahem Ganz, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page 19, Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Rome — Half a year after returning from a visit to Israel, in the course of which Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to act to reduce the volume of trade between Italy and Iran, it has now become evident that Rome has remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy this year too.

While Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini have both declared in the past that they understood the need to undermine Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, which threaten the State of Israel’s security and very existence, in practice the policies that have been pursued by their government have promoted trade with Tehran, which has helped the regime in Tehran to maintain its stability.

An examination by Yedioth Ahronoth found that according to data released by the Italian Central Bureau of Statistics, the scope of Iranian imports to Italy in the first half of 2010 was more than double [the previous period] and came to €2 billion. The Iranian imports to Italy in the equivalent period of 2009 were €847 million.

Italian exports to Iran also rose significantly, from €892 million in the first half of 2009 to more than a billion euros. While specific data have not yet been published, it is clear that the surge in trade does not stem from the trade in basic foods. Central Bureau of Statistics data clearly show that industry-related goods, infrastructure work, energy, communication satellites and technological products were typical of the trade between the two countries this year.

As previously noted by journalistic reports, Italian companies have also provided support to the Iranian army. Early this year the CEO of the Italian energy company ENI was called to the US State Department to explain the enormous volume of trade between the two countries. This is the fourth consecutive year in which the volume of trade between Italy and Iran has risen, despite the sanctions that were imposed by the UN on Iran and despite all the promises that the Italians gave to the US administration and the warm embraces that were given by Berlusconi during his visit to Israel.

The Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome yesterday confirmed the data and explained: “The sharp rise in imports from Iran stems from changes in the value of the currency between the euro and the dollar and the price of oil. There has been no departure from the sanctions that were imposed on Iran by the UN in exports to Iran. Large companies in Italy froze deals, and there is no dual civilian-military use of their activities. Alternately, the owners of medium and small-sized businesses who feel the acceleration of the Italian economy trade with Iran while taking a risk, in the absence of government insurance for their activities.”

The Italian Prime Minister’s Office said in response that they were still studying the data.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Iran

The new frontiers of Israeli diplomacy: Lieberman to address UN General Assembly (!)

September 13, 2010 6 comments

This morning’s Israel Hayom reports: (full translated text at bottom):

a decision was made that, for the first time, the Foreign Minister will address the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of the month

You don’t need to be an expert to understand that this is not a very wise matching of speaker and venue. But the PR expert at the country’s helm apparently had no choice, because he will be at the main diplomatic show, which the Foreign Minister is boycotting.

he will replace the Prime Minister, who is busy negotiating with the Palestinians.

This bit of news comes at the tail end of an item on an impromptu meeting between Lieberman and Hillary Clinton. Yediot (full translated text at bottom) adds that Lieberman cancelled a scheduled trip to DC (including face time with Biden) to meet Clinton in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

A few days ago his office received a personal request from Hillary Clinton to schedule a meeting  between them. Clinton, who will arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday, apparently wants to “embrace” Lieberman and convince him to support talks with the Palestinians.

Clinton wants to convince Lieberman to tone it down a bit.

Washington is concerned with Lieberman’s statement that peace with the Palestinians will not be achieved this year nor in the next generation. Its possible that one of the requests from Lieberman will be to decrease the frequency of statements that create a negative atmosphere for the talks.

But she may be walking into a PR trap.

According to sources in the Foreign Ministry Clinton faces a difficult challenge: Lieberman is not expected to be convinced easily and he believes that the talks have no real chance.


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Categories: Diplomacy

Maariv: French and American envoys working to re-start Israeli-Syrian talks

September 13, 2010 1 comment

Maariv summarizes a news item from the Lebanese A-Safir. It’s unclear, however, whether the section on Mitchell visit is also from that source.

The byline is unusual. Bardenstein is the junior diplomatic affairs correspondent and probably does not speak Arabic. Items based on direct monitoring of the Arab press are usually bylined by the Arab or Palestinian affairs correspondents. Bardenstein’s sources are almost exclusively in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Effort to resume negotiations with Syria

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, September 13 2010 [page 5; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Along with the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, France and the US are acting to put in motion the political negotiations between Israel and Syria. Over the course of the holiday and yesterday, two top officials visited Israel who are responsible for talks on this channel. They met with top Israeli officials and in the next few days will go to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

The Lebanese As-Safir newspaper wrote that the French official was Jean Claude Cousseran, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to the Israeli-Syrian talks, and Fred Hoff, deputy to special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who is responsible for the Syrian-Lebanese desk for Washington. Cousseran and Hoff met with Defense Ministry officials, including Defense Minister Barak.

The paper further reported that in his visit to Damascus, Cousseran will try to clarify to what extent Syria will agree to be flexible in its demands of Israel even though, at every opportunity, Assad is firm about stressing that without a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, there will be no peace. Cousseran will also try to help get the dialogue moving on this track by means of putting pressure on the Israeli side to enter into the negotiations. France believes that if this works, the US will take on itself the role of patron of the talks.

Envoy Mitchell is also expected to visit Damascus and will try to get the support of President Assad for the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and to relay a message in the matter of the importance that the US attributes to talks on the Israel-Syria track.

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Categories: Diplomacy, Syria

Maariv: Israel a significant importer (and re-exporter) of Iranian goods

August 30, 2010 10 comments

UPDATE: August 31 2010 — Eli Clifton provides some important context.

This is a fairly wide-raging, if shallow, review. I found the section the section describing a botched attempt by an Israeli company to re-export Iranian marble to the US interesting. Particularly insightful was the justification for an Israeli double standard on this issue, as articulated by Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel (emphasis mine):


Economic threats are a mainstay of the Obama agenda and fuel the flames between the two countries after every statement on the issue.

The Israeli order banning trade, on the other hand, is not visible. “There’s an advantage to size in this case,” says Catarivas.”The Americans can afford to do things that others can’t.” Catarivas explains that as a small country dependent on foreign trade, Israel needs to separate politics and economics and refrain from economic boycotts. “In the same way that we are outraged against attempts to boycott us , we’re the last ones that should support boycotts of any kind,” he adds.

So until Israeli floors bring about a peace agreement with our neighbors in Tehran, the decision on whether to buy products manufactured in enemy countries is a private one to make. Alternatively, it is up to the quality of camouflage and the creativity of the importer, since Iranian marble is just one example from among dozens of products manufactured in enemy countries and available in the Israeli market.


The trader from Isfahan

Noa Oron, Maariv Friday Business Supplement [page 8; Hebrew original here], August 27 2010

The exquisite lobby of Bank Leumi’s management building on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv accentuates the contrast between the ancient and pastoral nature of the restored Mani House, and the modern pace of life.  Perspiring men in button-down shirts walk quickly past the 1930s-style porch, and conversations on mobile phones reverberate in the impressive space.  Heels click on the gleaming marble, and one after another the senior bank officials enter and go up to their offices, which overlook the Tel Aviv cityscape.

It is interesting to consider what the late judge Malkiel Mani would say, if he knew that the directors of the bank—the shares of which are still held by the state—were scurrying about on marble that was quarried in Iran.

Bank Leumi was among the first in Israel to purchase the Iranian Gohare stone, which is named after the ancient city of Gohar-Tappeh in Iran, and quarried mainly in Isfahan, in central Iran.  The marble stone, the hues of which combine beige and gray, became popular among Israeli architects, and was soon purchased by many traders in Israel, along with other Iranian marble stone.

But how did marble reach Israel from Iran, a state with which trade is barred by law?  Through the ultimate transit station — Turkey.  The stone slabs arrive in containers marked “Made in Turkey,” accompanied by Turkish documents, and easily pass through customs agents at the ports.  This is only one of the methods for camouflaging the country of production, for goods coming from countries with which Israel does not have trade relations.  This does not refer only to marble: Other products also make their way to Israel in a similar fashion, including textile, carpets, candy and of course pistachios.

The order banning trade with the enemy defines Lebanon, Syria and Iran as states with which trade is forbidden.  Nevertheless, trade with them takes place on a regular basis, indirectly, through third parties.  Whether it is because of globalization, the drive to develop the Israeli economy, or just because it sells, certain goods from enemy countries are prevalent in the Israeli market.  How much difference does this make to the Israeli economy, to the Americans or to Ahmadinejad’s pocket?

Means of camouflage

When architect Miri Kaiser presented the directors of Bank Leumi with the plans for the new management building, about ten years ago, importing thousands of square meters of Iranian Gohare stone was a minor detail on the way to the dream office.  Members of the bank’s planning team chose the stone with Kaiser’s assistance and also traveled with her to Greece, where the Gohare slabs were chosen carefully.  At that time, the Gohare blocks were shipped to the city of Drama, Greece, where the cutting and finishing of the marble slabs was done.  From Greece, the marble was transferred to Israel, and it is currently imported through Turkey.  The name “Drama,” incidentally, became a common name for Gohare among the Israeli traders.

Bank Leumi sources said that none of the current bank employees had any knowledge of the fact that the origin of the stone was in Iran.  Moreover, the paperwork related to the construction of the management building states explicitly that the stone is Greek stone, without any mention or hint of the fact that the stone is of different origin.  An explanation for such registration could be the cutting stage in the marble production process, so that at times the country in which the marble is cut is ultimately registered as its country of origin. The explanation could be that the country where the stone was cut is sometimes labeled as the country of origin. Another possibility is that Greek containers were used to import the stone, prompting Israeli Customs to mark the the marble as originating in Greece, which is what happens today with Gohare imported through Turkey. In any case, according to informed sources, the architect and importer both knew that the the Gohare had been quarried in Iran. But who has time for patriotism when a multi-million project is at stake?

Bank Leumi is not alone.  Hundreds of public buildings and residential buildings in Israel shine thanks to Iranian marble.  In the Avenue conference room of the Airport City project, you can see 2,000 square meters of Gohare; several luxury buildings in northern Tel Aviv boast lobbies courtesy of Khamenei; and even the Pivko building in Tel Aviv, the huge spaceship that can be seen from the Ayalon Highway, displays several hundred square meters of marble from Iran.

The Gohare is also not alone in the fray.  Graphite, onyx and other types of marble are imported from Iran.  However, the Gohare is quarried only in Iran and is unique for its relatively low price and popularity among Israeli architects—a winning formula for marble importers and traders.

“I call the Iranians from here and speak to them directly on their mobile phones,” a salesman explains in a north Tel Aviv flooring shop.  Most sales personnel are not embarrassed to say that this is stone that originates in Iran, sometimes immediately when it is shown to you, and sometimes after you ask.  “I am not always eager to say where everything came from,” the salesman qualifies, “but it doesn’t matter.  People also have a problem with Turkey.  You simply can’t mix politics with this.”

Since it is indeed preferable to avoid a political debate — after all, we are talking about floors — the marble marketers will use a variety of “means of camouflage.” In order to leave the stones nameless (and mainly so that we will not be able to compare prices), the marble companies give the stones original names that are the fruit of their imagination.  “Gray Steel” is one of the names given to the Gohare, for example.  Other traders will say that this is Turkish stone or “imported from Persia.”  If you catch the salesman in a friendly moment, you may be able to extract the information from him.  “I’ll tell you a secret,” one saleswoman whispers, “the Turks import from the Iranians, but let’s not make a big deal of it.”

Statistics provided by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce show that marble imports to Israel have increased over the past three years, and marble imported from Turkey constitute over 60% of the imports.  The scope of marble imports from Turkey in these years stood at over USD 22 million per year, on the average.  It is impossible to know what percentage of marble originated in Iran, but in light of the popularity of the Gohare stone and other Iranian stones, we can presume that it is a considerable share.  But the most troubling fact was supplied by a senior source in the marble sector: 90% of Gohare stone in Iran is owned by the Iranian government — meaning that the Iranian government is clipping the coupon from the trade with Israel.

“The question is what economic damage is being caused to the Israeli industry,” explains Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel.  “In any case, I don’t think that the Iranian economy depends on its marble exports, and if they don’t sell the marble to Israel they will sell it to someone else.”  Catarivas says that in order to continue to maintain a stable economy that is part of the globalization trend, [Israel] has to balance between bureaucracy and regulation to the free market: “I hope that the Israeli government can find the balance.  All in all, I don’t see the Israeli market being flooded by goods from enemy countries.”

“Whoever imports from Iran is a traitor and the State of Israel should make every effort to track down and stop these imports,” Oded Tira, former president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, says angrily.  Tira is opposed to the approach that the business end justifies the means, and says that globalization serves as an excuse for trade relations with enemy countries.  “Even if the imports help us improve our own economy, I would sacrifice this in favor of pressure on the economy of the enemy states,” he explains.  “There should be a moral demand from people not to try to deceive the state, thereby strengthening the enemy.”  He says that giving up solidarity for the sake of business is dangerous, even if the sums involved are small: “Perhaps the tax that the Israeli trader pays will enable the Iranian government to buy the last fuse that it needs to complete the nuclear bomb.  This is an outrage.”

Finance Ministry officials said that no permit had been given to import stones from Iran.  Therefore, if imports were carried out, these importers risk breaking Israeli law.  Moreover, due to the international sensitivity and the sanctions on Iran, there is serious concern that additional laws were broken.

From Israel with love

Us sanctions on Iran have caused increased vigilance in imposing a ban on Iranian imports. As tension mounted between the two countries, our friend in the West banned all commercial ties with Iran in 1997, but the phenomenon of indirect imports via third countries is evident.  US Customs is strict and assertive on this issue, but also faces the same difficulty as Israeli Customs in identifying goods that are not labeled as made in Iran.

The office of the US Trade Attaché told Maariv Business that import from Iran to the Us have been in decline since 2007. Imports decreased by 41% between 2007 and 2008 and by 34% between 2008 and 2009. To date, about $35 million of Iranian goods have been transferred to the US in 201o, a a decrease of 48% compared to the previous year, but the year has still not ended.

In any case, when Israel is the one exporting Iranian marble to the Americans it becomes an embarrassing story. About two years ago, the Israeli company Bastones [spelling uncertain] sold two containers of Iranian Gohare marble to the US company Ann Sacks , which specializes in high-end interior design. Bastones promised that the stone was Turkish, in the same way that many traders in Israeli promise their local clients. The two containers full of Gohare made their way from the Mediterranean to the Western giant, but on the way they encountered a “storm” of a type one does not usually encounter at sea.

Ann Sacks’s management became suspicious that the marble was Iranian and started questioning Bastones’ exporters.After a few interrogations and a lot of stuttering Bastones confessed to the Americans that marble was indeed quarried in the Iranian mountains. Ann Sacks immediately cancelled the the deal and the containers made a rapid u-turn back to Israel. Bastones suffered losses, but it appears that it sold the stone in Israel. The Kohler corporation, Ann Sacks’s owner, refused to comment for this story.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Direct Action

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