Netanyahu Defends German Submarine Deal as Ensuring Israel's Future

Amid backlash on deal, prime minister says he never spoke with his personal lawyer - who has ties to German firm - about submarines.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu onboard the Rahav, the fifth submarine in Israel's fleet, after it arrived in Haifa from Germany in January.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu onboard the Rahav, the fifth submarine in Israel's fleet, after it arrived from Germany in January 2016Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he acted to promptly advance the submarine deal with Germany because he wanted to make sure that the issue was agreed upon while German Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered a great friend of Israel, is still in office.

Speaking at Sunday's Likud ministerial meeting, the prime minister stressed that he wanted the matter to be set before elections in Germany take place.

IN DEPTH: The Israeli submarine scandal: What we know

Netanyahu said that he knew nothing of the involvement of his private attorney, David Shimron, in the deal to purchase submarines for the Israeli Navy from Germany. He said that he first heard that Shimron was representing businessman Miki Ganor, the Israeli representative of the German submarine maker ThyssenKrupp, on Channel 10.

"I've never spoken with Shimron on the subject of submarines," Netanyahu said, according to a source present in the meeting. The prime minister added that all discussions on the submarine deal were documented. "There'll be nothing [with this case] because there was nothing," he said of the issue.

Netanyahu also addressed the submarine issue at the weekly cabinet meeting, saying that "Israel's safety demands the purchase of submarines and the renewal of the submarine fleet. These are strategic weapons that ensure its future and I'm telling you – the very existence of Israel in coming decades."

"Strengthening Israel's security power is the only consideration that guided in me in the submarine purchase and nothing else," he said.

In recent weeks, the prime minister announced the decision to purchase three submarines from Germany, in addition to the six-submarine fleet Israel currently holds, but the Prime Minister's Office denied that there was any connection between Shimron's interests and the decision to purchase the new equipment for the Israel Navy.

In an interview with Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” program, the acting head of the National Security Council, 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). Nagel was asked if former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had not previously been aware of Netanyahu’s plan to buy the two ships. “It’s possible,” he replied.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday that he had "vigorously opposed" increasing the country's submarine fleet, and adding that they were not needed at the time and would not be needed in the coming years.

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