A week after the US State Department announced it was placing sanctions on
Israeli company the Ofer Brothers Group over the sale of an oil tanker to Iran,
government silence on the matter is producing widespread speculation.
Wednesday, American Richard Silverstein wrote on his blog Tikun Olam that an
unnamed veteran Israeli politician had told him that ships belonging to the Ofer
brothers had docked in Iranian ports in order to allow Mossad agents to sneak
ashore for secret missions.
The statement echoes an hypothesis voiced on
Monday by MK Arye Eldad (National Union), who said the tankers that docked in
Iran might have been spying on behalf of Israel and photographing its coasts,
and therefore it must be established whether they were “heroes or
“It may be that the relative silence coming out of the
government and the Ofer brothers is because of the sensitive nature of the
deeds, maybe things are more complicated than meets the eye,” Eldad
No Israeli sources agreed to comment on the blog post.
abrupt cancellation of a Knesset Economics Committee meeting on Tuesday that was
supposed to debate the company’s actions and the state’s role in response, added
to the mystery surrounding the affair. Committee chairman Carmel Shama- Hacohen
(Likud) adjourned the meeting after a few minutes, upon receiving a note from an
“There are no new details since I got the note,”
Shama-Hacohen said, reiterating that the note’s contents were the main reason
for closing the discussion.
He added that another consideration in the
abrupt interruption of Tuesday’s meeting was the lack of representation from the
Ofer Brothers Group.
“I knew the Ofer brothers themselves wouldn’t attend
the meeting, but I thought they’d send a lawyer or their director-general,”
Shama-Hacohen said. “There wasn’t anyone to ask questions about the core of the
It was unclear whether the committee would hold another
meeting on the matter, he said. “It’s important to investigate the facts, ask
questions, and clarify things on the parliamentary level. However, we do not
want to stand in the way of other processes,” he added, referring to rumors that
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein plans to investigate Ofer Brothers’ dealings
On Tuesday night, a note was posted on Shama-Hacohen’s
Facebook page that read, “Carmel, the discussion is unnecessary at the moment.
There are new details that change the whole picture.”
The MK soon issued
a statement, writing on Facebook that “the note does not have any resemblance to
the original note.”
Shama-Hacohen added, “the note [he received at the
Knesset] is far less interesting than it seems.”
Meanwhile, the Prime
Minister’s Office responded on Wednesday to media reports that National Security
Council head Maj.
Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror had served as a director on
the boards of more than one Ofer Brothers-controlled company, by saying that
Amidror “had no connection whatsoever to any one of the companies accused of
dealing with the transfer of gas to Iran or to a company that sold a tanker to
an Iranian company.”
Haaretz reported that Amidror, a former head of
research in Military Intelligence, had been a director of Ofer
Brothers-controlled companies Israel Corporation and Zim Integrated Shipping
Services since at least 2007, and that he had resigned from those roles upon
assuming his position at the National Security Council, to which he was
appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in February.
Minister’s Office confirmed the Haaretz report, but said Zim and Israel
Corporation had no connection to the allegations against Ofer
Despite repeated requests for the attorney- general to open a
comprehensive probe into the affair, there has been no motion to do so thus
“The attorney-general has received many requests to investigate the
affair and is examining them. The A-G has not ordered a police investigation
into the matter,” the Justice Ministry spokesman said.
Moshe Negbi, legal
commentator for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, said it was the
attorney-general’s responsibility to investigate the specific case, but it was
the Knesset’s job to oversee the government and get answers to question raised
over enforcement the law prohibiting trade with enemy states.
turns out that the Finance Ministry organs mandated to enforce the prohibition
failed, it is the Economics Committee’s job to investigate the matter,” Negbi
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said during a conference at Tel Aviv
University on Wednesday evening that he didn’t believe the Ofer family broke any
“I am not the Ofer family’s protector, they don’t need me to protect
them. Not all the facts are known and the question is whether or not they broke
the law. Based on what I know, they didn’t break any law, if they just sent
goods to Iran,” said Dagan.