Netanyahu: PMO didn't authorize Ofer contacts with Iran

Prime minister says he first heard about the affair from a journalist; says "there was no permission; we have clear policies on the matter."

By JPOST.COM STAFF, RON FRIEDMAN,
May 30, 2011 13:15
1 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu Somber Speech 311. (photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied ever authorizing the Ofer brothers' sale of an oil tanker to Iran or having any prior knowledge of the affair, speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

The Prime Minister's Office did not authorize the contacts between the Ofers' company and Iran, Netanyahu said. "I found out about it from a journalist's question," adding that after checking with members of his staff authorized to deal with such matters, "there was no permission for any contact or delivery to Iran." "We have clear policies on this matter," he added.

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Earlier Monday, a senior official told Israel Radio that he government will not approach the US on behalf of the Ofer brothers. The official said that Israel cannot approach the US government because Jerusalem has been the strongest voice calling for sanctions against Iran, with whom the Ofer brothers are accused of doing business. He added that requests were made to the government to act on behalf of the Ofers, but they were summarily turned down.

Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Carmel Shama HaCohen added that, it's not permissible that on the one hand, the Ofer brothers contribute to the welfare of the State of Israel, and on the other hand, caused damage to it. Shama added that there's no chance that the government can remain uninvolved in the affair. The Knesset Economic Committee was scheduled to discuss the affair on Tuesday.

“A situation whereby a leading Israeli company – or a company linked to it – is trading with Iran at a level that leads the US State Department to sanction it, is a dangerous and a strategic black hole in the Israeli effort to halt the Iranian nuclear project,” said Shama HaCohen a day before.

On Sunday, quality-government watchdog, Ometz, called both Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to initiate comprehensive investigations into all Israeli-based companies doing business with Iran – and into the government authorities under whose watch such alleged transactions took place.

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