Netanyahu: Submarine Deal Will Go Ahead as Planned Once Probe Ends

Prime minister refuses to confirm or deny if Israel gave green light for Germany's sale of submarines to Egypt

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities of Hungary in Budapest, July 19, 2017.
Balazs Mohai/AP

BUDAPEST - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was not concerned by the German government’s decision to freeze the signing of a memorandum with Israel regarding the sale of three new submarines and was certain the deal would go ahead once the police investigation ends.

“Things will be cleared up and I believe the deal will proceed,” said Netanyahu at a press briefing in his Budapest hotel. “[The Germans] are waiting to see how the investigation ends. Once the investigation is over, it will be signed. There is an investigation. Let the investigation be carried out.”

The prime minister also said it was the German government that decided to sell submarines to Egypt, while Israel only voiced its position. He rejected all claims of his involvement in the suspected corruption surrounding the deal to buy German subs and the alleged ties between the Communications Ministry and telecom giant Bezeq.

Netanyahu would not confirm or deny if Israel had green-lighted the German government's sale of submarines to Egypt. When asked about it, Netanyahu said the submarine deal with Egypt was not an Israeli decision but a German government decision. “We did not decide to approve or not approve the deal,” he said. “We expressed our position and anything more that is being said publicly in this context is irresponsible. I am responsible for Israel’s security. The desire to harm me knows no bounds and is now touching on Israel’s security and that is irresponsible.”

The prime minister noted that from the very start of the investigation concerning the submarines and other vessels, he stated that he was not involved in the matter at all. “Now things are becoming clearer,” said Netanyahu. “I had no idea about Shimron’s involvement in the matter," he added, referring to his personal lawyer David Shimron. "When the investigation is completed I will also say what I have to say about Shimron. What is clear is that there are no millions here, that’s all dead.”

Netanyahu also said that all government decisions regarding purchasing submarines and other sea vessels were transparent and objective. When asked about former navy commander Major General Eliezer Marom being questioned on the matter, Netanyahu replied, “I don’t know what’s corruption and what isn’t corruption in the submarine affair. I’m not going to judge people. There is a presumption of innocence. I don’t know if anything is going to come out of this.”

Asked about his numerous associates who are being questioned by the police in various affairs, Netanyahu staunchly came to their defense. “Who told you there’s corruption? Show me one person who was convicted. What are you talking about? Shimron was the focus and that’s turning out to be baseless nonsense. Now it’s Filber," he said, referring to Shlomo Filber, a key ally. "Let’s see what happens with Filber. I know him as an honest and ethical person. I know that the decisions we were supposed to make – not one of them was made to benefit Bezeq and not one of them was tainted by conflict of interest. A person is entitled to the presumption of innocence. This is all just an attempt to cast a cloud of suspicion about something.”

Netanyahu again attacked the media, saying it was doing its utmost to tie him to the submarine affair even though he was not involved. “My decisions are completely objective. The issue isn’t the prime minister’s attacks on the media but the media’s attacks on the prime minister. It’s of unprecedented scope. You can’t just wash your hands of this. A false narrative was built and it is plunging to the depths.”