Netanyahu Wanted Ally in Defense Ministry During Submarine Dispute

Israeli premier asked then-Defense Minister Ya'alon to appoint a close associate to top Defense Ministry post, but Ya'alon refused.

Then-Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in 2014.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried a year ago to get then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to replace the ministry’s retiring director general, Dan Harel, with Accountant-General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, who is considered close to the prime minister – but Ya’alon refused

A source familiar with the matter said Abadi-Boiangiu herself had asked Netanyahu to get her appointed. Harel served as director general from August 2013 to May 2016. Harel left the ministry last year amid disputes involving the ministry, the National Security Council and the treasury over budgets and procurement. The procurement disputes involved the purchase of boats to protect the offshore gas fields, but there were also disputes regarding the size of the defense budgets. Harel objected to moving the handling of large purchases, like that of the boats, to the NSC, which Netanyahu supported.

There were also arguments over the negotiations with the United States over its aid package. Then National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen was put in charge of the talks, while defense officials were shunted aside. Harel objected to the clause in the aid agreement that reduced the percentage of the funds that could be used to procure Israeli-made weapons, fearing the impact this would have on Israel’s defense industries. His position was not accepted.

Ya’alon and Harel both opposed the purchase of three more submarines from Germany as well as the procurement of anti-submarine vessels. Harel also handled the tender for the purchase of vessels to protect the gas fields, which was canceled in the end in favor of a direct purchase from the German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, after partial funding from the German government was obtained. These purchases for the Israel Navy are now the subject of a police investigation. The prosecution said that Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, but Haaretz reported this week that evidence which reached the police shows that Netanyahu had ordered Harel to cancel the tender for acquiring the defense vessels.

Harel gave evidence to police over two days regarding a host of transactions. According to Channel 10, Harel believes that the matter was improperly handled, and that heavy pressure was brought to bear on him by the prime minister’s bureau to advance various transactions. According to the report, Harel told police, “I told Jacob Nagel (the deputy NSC head) ‘there’s half a year to decide. Why are you rushing?’ Nagel answered that this is what the prime minister wanted. Ya’alon didn’t want the anti-submarine vessels, it wasn’t on the priority list for the IDF’s multiyear plan.”

Some of these disputes were brought to Netanyahu’s attention. Haaretz has learned that the accumulating arguments led Netanyahu to try to appoint a close associate to the post of Defense Ministry director-general. In March 2016, when Harel said he planned to leave the ministry, Netanyahu proposed to Ya’alon that he appoint Abadi-Boiangiu to replace him.

Ya’alon refused. At that point the Netanyahu-Ya’alon relationship was very tense, and Ya’alon feared that Abadi-Boiangiu would serve as Netanyahu’s long arm in the Defense Ministry. In the end Harel was replaced by Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Adam.

Abadi-Boiangiu completed her term as accountant-general at the end of January. She is an accountant by profession and has no defense background. If she had been appointed Defense Ministry director-general she would have been the first woman in the position and the first since Pinhas Zussman in the late 1970s to do that job without any significant military experience.

Abadi-Boiangiu had been active in the Likud in the past. Her husband, Dr. Andy Boiangiu, is close to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and managed a company for him. Boiangiu was arrested in connection with the corruption allegations against Lieberman but the case against him was closed.