Netanyahu Denies Intervening in Naval Tender Under Police Investigation

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Benjamin Netanyahu tours the new Rahav submarine in Haifa's port, January 12, 2016.
Benjamin Netanyahu tours the new Rahav submarine in Haifa's port, January 12, 2016.Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday denied allegations that he had acted improperly with regard to a tender to purchase naval vessels for the Israel Navy.

The tender is currently the subject of a police investigation under the code name File 3000.

"Contrary to allegations in the media, the purchase of four surface crafts was conducted in accordance with the recommendations of the navy and the defense ministry," the Prime Minister's Bureau said in a statement on Sunday evening.

The statement was accompanied by a timeline of the abortive purchase which, according to the bureau, substantiated the premier's version of the events.

The defense ministry issued an international tender for the vessels in July 2014, for the stated purpose of securing Israel's natural gas drilling facilities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The tender was frozen by the ministry three months later, after Israel received a proposal from the German government to fund one-third of the cost of the vessels. The German offer was conditional on the ships being manufactured by the German firm ThyssenKrupp, from which Israel previously purchased submarines.

David Shimron in 2015.Credit: Moti Milrod

The issue of whether Netanyahu was instrumental in having the tender frozen is now the subject of a police investigation ordered by Attorney General Avihai Mendelblitt.

ThyssenKrupp is represented in Israel by businessman Miki Ganor, whose attorney, David Shimron, is also the personal attorney of the prime minister.

The tender, which specified a maximum cost of $100 million per vessel, elicited interest from shipyards in South Korea, Spain, Italy and Israel.

Sources in the defense establishment have told Haaretz in the past that the German offer to provide financing came after Israel had shared the proposals made by the other ship makers with the Germans.

"They opened the envelopes and then took them to the Germans, who had not participated in the tender," one of the sources said. "They then made a higher offer."

"It stank to high heaven," the source said.

According to the timeline released on Sunday by the PM's bureau, the director general of the foreign ministry requested that the tender be frozen in mid-August 2014. That was indeed done, but only two months later. Germany also offered its financial assistance in August, leaving an unexplained gap of two months.

In a previously published email from the period, the defense ministry's legal advisor Ahaz Ben Ari informed the ministry's director general, Dan Harel, that attorney Shimron had phoned him and asked whether the tender had been frozen in order to negotiate with ThyssenKrupp "as requested by the prime minister."

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