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Israel and Georgia: just business, nothing personal2012-01-19 20:04
Tbilisi does not feel like quarreling with Tel-Aviv any longer. For the whole of last year, Georgian officials were nervous about having hurt the Jews with "Fuchs and Frankiel's case". Israeli businessmen from Tramex company were put in prison for an attempt to reclaim their money and were pardoned in December. In testimony of reconciliation, Georgian authorities agreed to repay the debt to another Israeli company, Elbit Systems Ltd, supplying military equipment. The company will get 35 million dollars and part of the goods unused by Georgia.
Georgian authorities are going to satisfy the claims of an Israeli supplier of air drones that became well-known after the 2008 South-Ossetian conflict and will pay Elbit Systems Ltd part of a one-hundred-million debt. Now the main thing the company representatives must remember is never to visit Tbilisi on PM Nikoloz Gilauri's invitation and never to accelerate the process of payment, promising to pay "commission fee" for assistance. Though, Georgian authorities will hardly play the same trick for the second time.
Besides, hurting the Jews may be dangerous, for they hurt back by withdrawing their investments, breaking diplomatic connections and even by supporting your enemies. Tbilisi has learnt the lesson well. Two Israeli businessmen, Rony Fuchs and Ze'ev Frankiel, spent the last year in the Georgian prison. According to the accusation, they had offered a bribe to the Georgians so that they would not delay the payment of compensation for a contract defeated in the early 90s. While Fuchs and Frankiel were rotting in a dungeon, Georgia and Israel almost turned into enemies. "The chosen people" wound down their business in Georgia; high-level meetings were suspended and Israeli businessmen turned to Abkhazia.
For a long time, Tbilisi was simulating a principled corruption fighter ready to punish even foreigners should they be suspected of bribery. However, last December, Mikhail Saakashvili granted pardon to the businessmen. It was rumoured to be done at the request of his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres. But Georgia by that time had already agreed with Tramex on an indemnity being 80 million dollars smaller than the initial one that sent Fuchs and Frankiel to prison. Playing fidelity to principle was worth it.
Tel-Aviv was sympathetic to Tbilisi's contrivance. It had its own trump card to put on the table right after the release of the businessmen. Elbit Systems arms supplying company had filed a lawsuit with Supreme Court of Great Britain last spring, claiming 100 million dollars for a contract signed in 2007. At that time, Georgia bought 40 air drones of the Hermes 450 type from Israel. They could be seen many times in the skies of Abkhazia and were crashed three times. Besides, Elbit Systems improved Georgian T-72 tanks, having furnished them with new electronics and armour.
However, Georgian MFA stated last April that Ministry of Defense owes Israel nothing. "According to our information, Ministry of Defense of Georgia did not break any contracts. Georgia has got no debts to this company; on the contrary, some international companies are indebted to us", - deputy head of the administration Nino Kalandadze declared then.
It looked like Tbilisi was trying to find a way to avoid these claims. Israel was indignant, solidarity with Fuchs and Frankiel only heating the resentment. However, a contract with Elbit Systems, as well as Tramex' claims, was evidently funny business.