Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented
Sunday on the suspected ties between Israel-based Tanker Pacific and Iran, saying the company, "was never sanctioned to dock or unload goods in Iran."
Calcalist revealed Sunday that at least seven oil-tankers belonging to Tanker Pacific, which is owned by Israeli business tycoon Sammy Ofer, have docked in Iran between 2004 and 2007.
Ofer Brothers on US sanctions list
- Report: 7 of Ofer's tankers docked in Iran
Speaking before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu said that after learning of the affair, he inquired – personally – whether the company was given any kind of trade permit with the Islamic Republic.
"Israel's policy on Iran is
very clear – any and all contact with it is forbidden," Netanyahu said.
Sammy Ofer's associates said Sunday that at the time in question, docking in Iran was not in violation of any law.
A Tanker Pacific statement reiterated: "Tanker Pacific is a company of global scale… At the time in question all operations of this kind were fully sanctioned under international laws and regulations legislated by the US, EU, and UN. Nevertheless, Tanker Pacific decided in November of 2010 to halt all shipments of oil and its derivatives to Iran."
Meanwhile, Director of Port Affairs at Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization also denied the reports, saying the only way a "Zionist vessel," would have been allowed to dock an Iranian harbor was if it was "falsely hoisting other flags."
Attorney Robbie Sabel, a former legal counsel with the Foreign Ministry said that it is still unclear exactly which laws the Ofer Brothers violated, adding that Israel's legislation barring trade with Iran was "absurdly porous" – especially compared to its counterparts worldwide.
The US, he said, has the strictest ban on trade with Iran, barring any and all trade with the Islamic Republic; and Washington constantly updates it to accommodate new sanctions.
The Israeli law is based only on the laws barring trade with enemy states, which makes it much more ambiguous and lacking in clear definitions of execution and enforcement.
"It's an absurd situation, really. They have a special division for this matter, and all we have is 60-year-old legislation with meager enforcement," he said.
Israel's Trading with the Enemy Order dates back to 1939.
According to Sabel, the ambiguity of the Israeli law is the reason it is unclear at this time whether or not the Ofer Brothers actually broke the law: "Technically, according to the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Order, Iran is an enemy state and trading with it is a felony. That is not necessarily the case if the sale was conducted via a third party," he explained.
As for the issue of docking in an Iranian harbor, Sabel said that while an Israeli crew is absolutely forbidden from docking in Iran, if the crew was not Israeli, it is uncertain whether they can be bound by the Israeli law simply for working on an Israeli-owned vessel.