Backing Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Chief Endorses Controversial Submarine Deal

'When people are in a complicated position, they have problems with their memory,' Avigdor Lieberman says in response to predecessor Moshe Ya'alon's call to probe the scandal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel, November 1, 2016.
Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman defended the controversial submarine deal on Wednesday.

Israel’s political leaders and defense establishment are currently roiled by revelations of alleged conflicts of interest regarding a huge military deal involving a German company represented in Israel by none other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's personal lawyer.

On Tuesday a Channel 10 report said an email from a Defense Ministry official purportedly shows that Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, intervened on behalf of a German shipyard concerning a sale of missile boats to the Israel Navy. 

"Sometimes when people are in a complicated position, they have problems with their memory,” Lieberman said Wednesday in response to criticism voiced by his predecessor, Moshe Ya'alon.

“We made a very good decision to protect our security with the submarine,” Lieberman said. “It is impossible to detail all the discussions. I can promise you that we made the best decision with a broad consensus among security officials and politicians.” 

Ya'alon, who was dismissed as defense minister in May, last week called for an investigation into Netanyahu's role in the submarine deal.

"I don't know what was done and what was signed after I left the Defense Ministry," he said, calling the reports about the scandal "very disturbing" and worthy of a "comprehensive investigation by the relevant parties."

Speaking at a Jerusalem Post conference, Lieberman also called on waiting for President-elect Donald Trump to be sworn in before coming up with any new policy guidelines regarding settlement construction in the West Bank. 

“From my standpoint, we need to wait The main point in the last eight years is that we did not see building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Jerusalem. The main reason was the failure to reach a common policy with the United States This is why I suggest waiting for the new administration, to discuss it," Lieberman said.

He added: “I think it is vital to keep quiet. We will discuss with the new administration in February or March and we will put together understandings. It is better today to focus on other problems we have within Israel."

Lieberman said he didn't expect Obama to take any unilateral steps with regard to Israel before he leaves office in January. He said it was "clear that the transition will go smoothly." 

Lieberman said further in reply to a question that Israel was "exerting efforts to prevent" another war with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

In his remarks at the conference, Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas anew of rejecting multiple initiatives for a summit. 

Netanyahu said that foreign leaders visiting Israel often ask him "can we help with the Palestinians. And I say yeah, you can help. There's one thing you have to do. It's the acid test. Invite me and Abu Mazen to a meeting, right now, in your capital, right now.

"I'm willing to come, I'll change my schedule. I'm willing to come to see him. They get very excited, Netanyahu said.

"Immediately they pass the message to Ramallah. And what do you think is the response? Not now, can't, conditions preconditions."