Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu permitted Germany to sell two submarines to Egypt in exchange for a discount of some $500 million on Israel’s purchase of a sixth submarine from Germany, former state’s witness Michael Ganor told investigators, Channel 13 News reported on Tuesday.
Ganor disclosed the details during the investigation for alleged misconduct in Israel’s purchase of submarines and naval boats from Germany. Netanyahu had said his reason for approving the deal was a “state secret” and admitted keeping then defense minister and the chief of staff out of the loop.
Ganor, who represented Germany’s Thyssenkrupp in Israel, told investigators that the German company had made the discount conditional on Israel greenlighting its sale of two submarines to Egypt. Israel and Germany have an agreement according to which Berlin will not sell advanced weapons to Israel’s neighbors without approval from Jerusalem.
Ganor didn’t change his story even after his state’s evidence deal was withdrawn.
In March, Netanyahu admitted in an interview with Israel Channel 12 News that he had kept then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-Chief of Staff Benny Gantz out of the decision-making process, on grounds of state security.
“My reasons are security reasons and security reasons alone. The State of Israel has secrets that only the prime minister knows and a handful of people,” Netanyahu said at the time.
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“Gantz and [Yair] Lapid and especially Ya’alon and [Gabi] Ashkenazi want to force me to expose a state secret and to jeopardize the security of the state.... I cannot reveal these things, everyone who needs to know knows, the attorney general knows, he checked it out and he found absolutely nothing wrong with what I did,” Netanyahu said.
A few days later, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit made it clear that he was not briefed on the details and the circumstances of the deal.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said: “The findings published tonight require the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation of the prime minister’s involvement in the submarine deal. It's unheard of that the prime minister carries out arms deals that influence the strategic balance in the region while being suspected of involving personal considerations. The corruption revealed before our very eyes must be investigated.”
In a written statement, Likud said Netanyahu was "found not to be connected" with the submarine affair and claimed Gantz and Lapid are trying to "distract the public’s attention from the mess inside their party and from the real question of the election — who will be the next prime minister: Netanyahu or Gantz?"