The earthshaking surprise in the charges against Nahum Manbar is the accusation that the case is not one of selling Iran protective equipment against chemical weapons, but of actually knowingly selling equipment and materials for offensive chemical warfare.
Manbar previously admitted selling equipment to the Iranians, including chemical agent detection equipment. But he insisted that all the equipment he sold to the Iranians was purely defensive, and was transferred with the knowledge of the Israeli authorities. In his defence, Manbar would say that when he was warned not to sell particular material, he refrained from doing so.
The matter of the sale of equipment to the Iranians was not a secret, when Manbar returned to operate in Israel in 1992, after coming to terms with the authorities over the train of "normal" criminal offences he trailed behind him (dishonoured cheques and fraud against Bezeq). In business, he failed in almost everything he touched, but created the impression of being a man at the top, largely thanks to his acquaintance with David Federman. His name was even mentioned as a possible partner for Federman in the confrontation with Clal over Elite.
Manbar, who had been a paratroop officer and an outstanding sportsman, made huge efforts to clear himself of the Iranian business. He succeeded in convincing many of his circle that there was nothing wrong in the sale of defensive weaponry to Iran. What’s more, if he succeeded in screwing the Iranians with scrap metal from tanks - so much the better.
Manbar formed good connections in the political top echelons after his return. He was close to MK Dalia Itzik, when he supported her and MK Naomi Blumenthal’s feminist campaign. He was respectfully received by Uzi Baram and Avraham Burg, fans of his team, Hapoel Jerusalem. He met Shimon Peres twice, once in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and once at the Dan Hotel. He even nearly got to meet the then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, but at the last minute someone whispered something in Eitan Haber’s ear, and the meeting was cancelled. He later financed a memorial in Paris inaugurated by Leah Rabin.
According to the indictment, alongside intense efforts to clear his name from the stigma of being a man who made irresponsible arms deals, he continued, and even strengthened, his connections with the Iranians in the area of offensive equipment, until 1994. Despite warnings, he overstepped the danger line, until the intelligence services succeeded in obtaining evidence of his activity. It is doubtful whether the evidence will be published in the near future.