Netanyahu's Office Defends Purchase of German Submarines, Despite Accusations

Opposition MK calls for attorney general to investigate possible conflict of interests in deal for new submarines former defense minister Ya'alon voiced opposition to purchase.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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One of Israel's Dolphin-class submarines purchased from Germany, photographed in 2016.
One of Israel's Dolphin-class submarines purchased from Germany, photographed in 2016.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The Prime Minister Office’s issued a statement Wednesday on behalf of the National Security Council saying that the purchase of German submarines “was done in an orderly and professional process with no outside influence and with the recommendation of all the professional bodies in the security establishment.”

The statement was issued following Tuesday’s report on Channel 10 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron also represents an Israeli businessman named Miki Ganor, who works for the German shipyard building the submarines at issue. An opposition MK contended the deal raises the suspicion that it involved a conflict of interests and breach of trust on the part of Netanyahu.

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), a member of the Knesset’s Political and Security Committee, contacted Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit Wednesday asking him to look into whether or not Netanyahu acted in a conflict of interests with regard to the purchase of the German submarines.

Mendelblit is to ask for a formal opinion from the State Prosecutor's Office to decide whether or not to open its own inquiry.

“The direct involvement of attorney Shimron, Netanyahu’s attorney, in this affair, and Netanyahu’s signing off on this deal in complete contrast to the professional assessments of the security establishment, create the appearance of a conflict of interests, which could meet the legal requirements of breach of trust or bribery,” Rozin wrote. “I ask that you look into the suspected conflict of interests arising from the prime minister’s professional decisions and his alleged private business interests in this deal and other private deals represented by attorney Shimron.”

Over the past few weeks Maariv and several other media outlets reported that the IDF was opposed to the purchase of the new submarines and that former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon questioned the wisdom of the purchase due to budgetary concerns. Wednesday’s National Security Council statement held that the decision to purchase the additional submarines to replace three currently in use by the Israel Navy, and which are slated to be retired in the years ahead, was made with agreement by the Ministry of Defense, the IDF and the National Security Council.

“The prime minister raised the request for the purchase of the submarines and the German grant to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after which an inter-ministerial staff evaluation took place with all relevant parties, which brought about the agreements,” the National Security Council statement read.

The NSC explained that at no stage did the possibility of purchasing submarines from other countries other than Germany come up, and that the key reason was the close connections between Israel and Germany. “Due to the cooperation between Israel and Germany in the field of submarines, stretching back to the 1990s, to the complete satisfaction of the IDF and the security establishment, it was decided that we continue to purchase from Germany,” the NSC said. “Economic and national concerns also supported the decision, since Israel received a large grant from the German government worth hundreds of millions of euros.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman touched on the subject in a press briefing Wednesday, saying he was unaware of any involvement on the part of attorney Shimron in the matter of the submarine purchase. He added that he supports the purchase of the new submarines and stressed that the security establishment took part in the decision making process. “I am for the purchase of the submarines in the current scope. It is entirely correct,” Lieberman said. “There were several discussions on the matter and I think this purchase is a must. There are also other opinions. There were those in the security establishment who were against the development of the Iron Dome system.”

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