Attorney General Contradicts Netanyahu's Claim: I Was Not Told the 'State Secret' Behind Sale of Submarine to Egypt

Netanyahu said Saturday that he hadn't informed the security establishment because there are 'things that even the defense minister and the chief of staff don’t need to know' but claimed he has told the AG - who now denies it

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit speaks at an event in Jerusalem, Israel, August 26, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit contradicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that he had informed him the reason behind a submarine sale to Egypt on Sunday evening. He is the second of three people that Netanyahu claimed knew of the sale to deny it.

Netanyahu said in an interview Saturday that the sale, which has raised allegations of a possible conflict of interest, was made because of "state secrets," saying that Mendelblit and a couple of other people were aware of the secret matter, of which the defense minister and military chief of staff were unaware.

"For the record, we note that the attorney general was not exposed to this secret piece of information at any stage," a letter from Mendelblit's office read.  

In response, Netanyahu issued a statement claiming that Mendeblit had merely confirmed that the sale was a sensitive security matter and claiming that the prime minister had offered to provide him with the classified details, but that Mendelblit had decided there was no need to do so.

Netanyahu invited the attorney general and national security adviser for a meeting to provide them with the classified details, the statement, issued Sunday evening, said. 

>> Submarines and 'state secrets': The red flags in Netanyahu's latest version | Analysis

In a video released Friday, Netanyahu aid a small number of people knew "all the details regarding this sensitive subject," including the national security adviser at the time, Yaakov Amidror; his successor, Yaakov Nagel; and the attorney general, who, he claimed, examined evidence and concluded that Netanyahu's decision was motivated only by security considerations.

Nagel recently said that the sale occurred before his tenure and that he was not involved with it. 

In November 2016, just about two weeks after the case regarding Israel’s purchase of German submarines was made public, an unusual announcement was issued by the Mendelblit’s office thatdeclared that he had not found any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing in the case.

The case centers around two transactions involving Israel and the German firm ThyssenKrupp for the purchase by Israel for about 2 million euros ($2.3 million) of submarines and missile boats.

Netanyahu admitted for the first time during the surprise interview he gave Israeli television Saturday night, after avoiding and evading a response for nearly two years, that he is the one who informed the Germans that Israel no longer opposed the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt.

In that same interview, Netanyahu confirmed – also for the first time – that he had excluded Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, now both members of the Kahol Lavan political alliance, from his decision and failed to notify them afterward about his communications with the Germans.

As Haaretz’s Amos Harel wrote last week, contrary to claims over the past few days, it seems that Egypt could not have purchased submarines of such quality from any other country. The Egyptians wanted the advanced German subs and, in keeping with an earlier agreement between Israel and Germany that the latter would not sell advanced weapons to the former's neighbors without a green light, Netanyahu gave the nod to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.