Two Israelis arrested in Iran arms sales case

Avihai Weinstein and Eli Cohen of Bnei Brak, who are related, have been investigated multiple times for allegedly violating sanctions

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Eli Cohen, left, and Avihai Weinstein are suspected of selling arms to Iran. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Eli Cohen, left, and Avihai Weinstein are suspected of selling arms to Iran. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Two Israeli arms dealers have been arrested on suspicion of selling military aircraft parts to Iran, it was widely reported this week. The matter came to initial media attention on Tuesday, but more details, including the names of the suspects, were revealed on Thursday.

Avihai Weinstein and Eli Cohen were under investigation by the Israel Police and the Defense Ministry’s security investigation arm. The police would not confirm the reports to The Times of Israel, but said the matter was familiar to the authorities, no further comments could be given because the case was under investigation by foreign law enforcement agencies.

Greek officials, working together with the American Homeland Security Investigations agency, uncovered two shipments of spare parts for F-4 Phantom jets, in December 2012 and again in April 2013, the Athens daily Ekathimerini reported over the weekend.

Cohen and Weinstein, his brother-in-law, live in Bnei Brak where they are heavily involved in the ultra-Orthodox Hassidic community, Ynet News reported on Thursday. The men were originally from a Religious Zionist background, but later, after some legal troubles, moved into the ultra-Orthodox world, where they were “received with joy,” a community source said, who added that they are now an “integral” part of the community.

The two brothers have both been investigated multiple times for allegedly trying to sell and ship military equipment to the Islamic Republic in violation of international sanctions.

An American F-4 Phantom (photo credit: US Navy)
An American F-4 Phantom (photo credit: US Navy)

The two had previously tried to send shipments to Iran via intermediary states such as the United States, Germany, Thailand and Portugal, Channel 2 reported on Thursday. According to the report, Cohen has been investigated on such charges six times over the past 12 years.

According to a Haaretz report from 2004, Cohen and Weinstein were suspected of attempting to sell Hawk missiles and radar systems used in Phantoms to Iran. Two years earlier they attempted to sell parts for Israeli-made armored personnel carriers, but were never indicted.

Their company, R.S.P. Rebuilt Spare Parts, was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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