While the West is crippling Iran
with sanctions, it appears that in Israel
– of all places – some people are still doing business with the Islamic Republic.
Iranian marble limestone is known for its high quality all over the world. In Israel, it can be found in dozens of stores and chains.
A store in south Tel Aviv presented Yedioth Ahronoth's reporter with a large surface of Iranian marble tiles. A number of suppliers we called were more than happy to tell us about the merchandise. No one attempted to conceal the origin of the stone – on the contrary.
"We have containers of Iranian marble stone, as much as you want, " boasted a supplier in the central city of Bnei Brak.
According to the merchants, the imports are made possible thanks to a transit station between Iran and Israel: Turkey. The Iranians have created partnerships with factories in their neighboring country in order to bypass the global boycott and Israeli law, and send over the marble limestone from Iran's quarries.
In Turkey the blocks are cut into plates, polished and sold to Israel.
"No one approaches the Iranians directly," says Eran Siv, chairman of the Renovation Contractors Union in Israel and owner of the Siv Stone company. "The Turks put a sticker on the marble to make it appear Turkish, but everyone knows that it comes from Iran."
One of the main suppliers says Iranian marble has become a huge hit in Israel. According to estimates, millions of dollars flow into Iran every year from the marketing of the crystallized limestone to home across Israel.
"Israelis are crazy about this special stone, and the importers don’t want to give up their livelihood," the supplier adds.
And what does the law say? The Knesset's senior legal advisors admit that the Trading with the Enemy Act can be interpreted in various ways these days, so marble dealers will likely not be prosecuted.
Although the Act determines that Israeli citizens must not trade with people or companies from Iran, its wording makes it unclear whether trading with a third party is prohibited as well.
The legal experts explain that in any event, prosecution will only be possible if the marble is purchased from Iran especially for the Israeli merchant and at his request.
A Tax Authority official said in response to this report that the customs authorities had no information about goods being imported from Iran.
"Should such information be received, it will be looked into. The customs authorities engage in an ongoing battle against people trying to import illegal goods into Israel."
Tzvika Brot contributed to this report