Netanyahu: Money Transfer to Hamas Is the Right Step, I Know How to Bear the Cost

The prime minister also claimed that the organizers of the Paris conference asked him not to meet with Russia's Putin after weeks of unsuccessful attempts to schedule a meeting

Netanyahu at Ben Gurion airport before leaving for a conference in Paris, November 10, 2018.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu on Saturday defended Israel's recent deal with Qatar enabling the latter to fund the payment of salaries to Hamas officials.

"I am doing what I can in coordination with the southern communities to restore peace and prevent a humanitarian crisis," Netanyahu said, adding, "right now, this is the right step. For every step, without exception, there is a price. When you take steps as a leader, there is always a price, if you cannot bear the cost, you cannot lead."

Netanyahu also denied on Saturday any knowledge that his lawyer and confidant, David Shimron, was involvement in the corruption scandal known as the submarine affair.

The Israel Police announced on Thursday that they had found sufficient evidence to charge Shimron with facilitating bribery. Police also recommended charging Netanyahu's former bureau chief - David Sharan, former navy chief - Eliezer Marom, and two other ex-navy generals on similar bribery counts in the so-called submarine affair, also known as Case 3000.

>>Israel's submarine case: Jaw-dropping deals made without any in-depth staff work | Analysis 

In comments before taking off to Paris, Netanyahu discussed the affair for the first time since the police recommendations. “For two years I’m being shown going up and down a submarine. In the beginning they said ‘he knew,’ now they are saying ‘he didn’t know. As you are aware, there are no claims against me," Netanyahu said. When asked whether he had knowledge that David Shimron was embroiled in the affair, the prime minister replied: “You know that I didn’t know.”

The prime minister also mentioned efforts to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin by which his bureau has been unsuccessful in attempts to organize a meeting between the two leaders. According to reports from Russia, Putin declined to meet with Netanyahu at the upcoming forum in Paris. Netanyahu said that the organizers of the conference had asked the two not to meet adding, "I respect the request of the hosts, and their request was not to set one-sided meetings."

The so-called submarine affair revolves around alleged corruption surrounding $2 billion deals to purchase submarines and other naval vessels from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.

Michael Ganor, a former representative of submarine maker ThyssenKrupp in Israel, has turned state's evidence in the case. Ganor had served in the navy with Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, who police also recommended to charge.

Police said evidence was insufficient to charge Netanyahu's other attorney, Isaac Molho.