TEL AVIV (May. 15)
The Defense Ministry said Thursday that it is in no way connected with Ze’ev Reiss, an Israeli national arrested at JFK Airport in New York this week and charged by U.S. authorities with an attempt to smuggle American weapons to a Persian Gulf country.
Reiss, an Israel Defense Force reservist with the rank of Lt. Colonel and a former basketball player for the Hapoel Sports Club International, is not known to have requested assistance from any Israeli official. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it has no intention of intervening in the case.
Reiss was the seventh Israeli the U.S. authorities arrested in the past month, or issued warrants for their arrest. Six were charged with an alleged scheme to sell more than $2 billion in American weapons to Iran in violation of the U.S. arms embargo against that country. But sources here said there appeared to be no connection between Reiss and the six other Israelis charged by the U.S. last April 22.
The latter include a retired IDF general, Avraham Baram, and William Northrop, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. They are presently in Bermuda fighting extradition to the U.S.
The Defense Ministry’s statement said Reiss has no present or past connections with the Ministry, is not known to the Ministry staff and has no authorization to trade in arms.
According to reports from the U.S., he is to be flown to Texas where he will be charged formally with conspiracy to illegally sell American-made TOW air-to-air missiles to a Gulf State. It is not clear whether the weapons were to go to Iran or Iraq which have been at war for more than five years.
Reiss was described as a former member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner where he managed its furniture factory. He left the kibbutz five years ago to become a furniture dealer in the U.S.