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    Embarrassed Israel ends trade with Iran

    “The government of Israel authorized economic sanctions against Iran and companies that trade with it,” a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said blandly.

    To advance the sanctions, “the State of Israel will declare Iran and bodies linked to it to be enemy elements,” a new status, although most people around the world probably assumed from Israeli rhetoric that Iran was already considered an enemy.

    “These steps include a series of administrative and regulatory measures that will place Israel at the international forefront regarding the imposition of sanctions on Iran,” the statement said, boasting that Israel will now be leading the world in tough sanctions, albeit belatedly.

    The measures, which do not need further parliamentary approval, were taken after a committee found in March that Israel’s existing legislation did not live up to its public rhetoric and loud demands for other countries to impose tough sanctions.

    “These recommendations ensure that Israel will stand alongside other countries at the forefront of sanctions against Iran, in order to cause the Iranian regime to abandon its plans to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

    The issue gained prominence in recent months after a major Israeli firm, owned by Israel’s richest family, was cited by the United States for trading with the Islamic Republic.

    Israel’s Ofer Brothers Group owns a major international shipping business that is under investigation after being blacklisted by Washington last month for alleged dealings with Teheran. According to the US State Department, Ofer Brothers and a subsidiary, the Singapore-based Tanker Pacific, were involved in selling a tanker to an Iranian firm under sanctions last September.

    The firm has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying it had no ties to Tanker Pacific and that the State Department had made an “unfortunate mistake.”

    Many Israelis have done business with Iran over the years. This should not just be an embarrassment for Israel but also for Iran, which winks at such deals. Iran claims it will trade with every country except Israel.

    But the Islamic Republic even bought Israeli military equipment during the Iran-Iraq war and Iranian pistachios filled the Israeli market for decades to the disgust of American pistachio farmers, many of whom are originally from Iran and complained vocally.

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