Israel/Iraq: Israeli business invasion into Iraq

von G.Lange » Dienstag, 27. April 2004




Israeli business invasion into Iraq

Shraga Elam*

April 7, 2004

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported on April 2, 2004 on a wide scale
Israeli business invasion into Iraq. 70-100 Israeli firms have been
storming Iraq over the last year. "Most of them do not like to speak
about it," writes Ma'ariv. "[They export] Beer, phones, textiles,
electronics, buses, bullet-proof vests, shielded vehicles, everything
goes, even fuel. What are the Jordanians doing? - Mediating. The
Iraqis? - Buying. The Americans? - Closing their eyes. It is no
wonder that in Baghdad rumours circulate that the Israelis, including
a former chief of staff, have bought already half Iraq."

The first shot for this invasion came on July 21, 2003 when Israeli
finance minister Benyamin Netanyahu signed an authorization enabling
Israel to trade with Iraq, according to the Trade with the Enemy
Ordinance, pursuant to which Iraq shall not be considered anymore an
enemy nation.

In the Israeli official announcement one can read: "Minister Netanyahu
signed the Ordinance amendment after meeting with numerous business
people who expressed their willingness to conduct commercial relations
with Iraq, while presenting the inherent business potential."

This step was conceived skeptically in Washington as it seems capable
of corroborating the views emphasizing the role of Israel and its US
lobby in pushing America towards the Iraq war.

Five months after Netanyahu's declaration, the US published the name
of the states allowed to tender a bid for the reconstruction of Iraq.
Though it supported the war, Israel was missing on this list in order
not to annoy and embarrass Arab countries and especially the Iraqis.

Notwithstanding the impression that Washington tries to create,
Israelis are allowed to participate as sub-contractors in the
reconstruction work. This was confirmed by the media officer of
the US Program Management Office (PMO) in Iraq, Bruce Cole, in
an e-mail to Ma'ariv. "Israeli companies," he wrote, "may act as
sub-contractors in construction tenders and are allowed to win
tenders for supplying services and equipments."

The Iraqi businessmen dealing with the Israelis are aware in many
cases of the identity of their counterparts, but of course not
the Iraqi public, who is very hostile towards such developments.
Some of the goods, like used cars, are sent to Jordan, where they
are stripped from anything that might identify them as originating
in Israel. In one case, 1,500 air conditioners still had some
inscriptions in Hebrew and the Jordanian competitors were quick to
make public this marketing mistake. The whole shipment had then to
be withdrawn and caused heavy losses for the Israeli investors and
the cancellation of another project.

Netafim, which makes drip irrigation systems, already sold its smart
products to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's era and naturally hope now
to extend its activities in this country.

Some other Israeli commodities sold are used buses of the Tel Aviv
bus company Dan, or bullet-proof vests worth $ 12 million dollars
(US) produced by Rabintex, which in 1991-2 had already sold special
fire-retardant clothings to Iran. The Israeli defence ministry
claims that Rabintex products and that of another company are sold
only to the coalition forces in Iraq. These forces are supplied
with fuel through the Israeli company Sonol as part of a $70 million
contract.

Transclal Trade LTD, logistic services filed the first bill of
lading to Iraq in August 3, 2003; the content of this consignment:
9 tons of electronics and other consumption goods. Another Israeli
transportation company, Agish reports about some 20-30 shipments
to Iraq and Ma'ariv estimates the value of goods transported to Iraq
through Israel in the last year at $40 million (US). The volume of
shipments should increase, considering the expected closing of the
Syrian sea ports for traffic to Iraq. In this case the Israeli ports
will be of more importance.

Most of the Israeli transportation companies cooperate with Jordanian
firms, who collect the goods at the border between the two countries,
and then repack them in order to erase any Israeli traces.

Some of the Israeli companies, writes Ma'ariv, wishing to be active
in Iraq, joined US, European or Arab companies in order to make bids
as sub contractors for the real big money by the tenders of the US
army and coalition provisional authority.

Ma'ariv estimates, for example, that some 15 Israel companies
succeeded in getting fat Iraqi contracts from Bechtel, who on
its side won orders in the value of billions of US dollars. The
procedure, according to an involved Israeli businessman, is very
far from good administration, as the US Defense Department is not
accustomed to manage a country. The Israeli companies who succeed
in getting the closed tenders are those who possess excellent US
connections.

Box:

A list of Israeli companies active in Iraq:

* The bus company Dan (used buses)
* Rabintex ( bullet-proof vests)
* Shirionit Hosem (security doors)
* Etz Carmiel (doors and other wood products for border posts)
* Tambour (paints)
* Tempo (beer and other drinks)
* Tami 4 (Water-purifying application)
* Trellidor (folding bars)
* Tanurgaz (kitchens)
* Iridium Israel (mobile satellite communication services)
* Sakal (electronic products)
* Naan Dan(irrigation equipment)
* Sonol (fuel)

* Shraga Elam is an Israeli investigative journalist based in Zurich

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