Ex-defense Chief Ya'alon May Not Have Known Everything About Submarine Deal, Top Security Official Says

Netanyahu initially wanted to buy submarines to add to Israeli fleet of six, and also buy two anti-submarine boats, acting National Security Council head confirms.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
Netanyahu and acting National Security Council head Jacob Nagel during a cabinet meeting, September, 2016.
Netanyahu and acting National Security Council head Jacob Nagel during a cabinet meeting, September, 2016.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon may not have known about parts of Israel’s latest deal to buy submarines from Germany, the acting head of the National Security Council said on Saturday night.

In an interview with Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” program, Jacob Nagel confirmed many of the details published in the media last week about the submarine deal – in which Israel would reportedly purchase three submarines for nearly 1.5 billion euros (nearly $1.6 billion). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pushed for the deal, had declined to confirm the details and in some cases even denied them.

Nagel confirmed that in August 2015, when Netanyahu began pushing the idea of buying additional submarines from Germany, he instructed the National Security Council (which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office) to begin discussions with the defense establishment on the possibility of enlarging Israel’s fleet of submarines beyond the present number of six.

Following this instruction, Nagel said, the council held discussions with the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces between August 2015 and October 2015 – the month when Netanyahu flew to Berlin for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “During those discussions, it was decided – based on the defense establishment’s position – that there was no need for more than six submarines,” Nagel said.

Ever since reports of the submarine deal began surfacing two weeks ago, Netanyahu’s office has refused to confirm that the original intention was to increase the size of the submarine fleet. Moreover, some statements issued by his office claimed that the intent was always to purchase replacements for aging existing submarines, not to buy additional ones.

Nagel also confirmed that, as part of the deal, Netanyahu wanted to purchase two ships for anti-submarine warfare. The Prime Minister’s Office had refused to confirm that detail, too. Nagel said the proposal to buy the two ships appeared in the draft of a letter from Netanyahu to Merkel, but due to opposition from the defense establishment and Ya’alon, it was removed from the final version.

Nagel was then asked if Ya’alon had not previously been aware of Netanyahu’s plan to buy the two ships. “It’s possible,” he replied.

Over the past few days, several media outlets have reported that Ya’alon wasn’t informed of either the submarine deal or the plan to purchase two ships for anti-submarine warfare, and discovered it purely by chance. Netanyahu’s office has repeatedly denied this, but Nagel’s response provides partial confirmation of those reports.

Nagel said several times during the interview that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, was not involved in any way in the submarine deal. Channel 10 had reported a few days ago that, aside from being Netanyahu’s lawyer, Shimron also represented businessman Miki Ganor – the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp, the German company that builds the submarines.

“I didn’t meet with Shimron at all, and I also don’t know Miki Ganor,” Nagel said.

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