Police Question ex-Defense Minister Ya'alon in German Submarine Affair

Netanyahu reportedly to be questioned again this week on case of alleged quid pro quo with daily newspaper publisher.

PM Netanyahu, right, with Defense Minister Ya'alon, on Dec. 10, 2014.
AFP

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was questioned by police about the alleged tailoring of a bid to purchase ships to protect Israel’s natural gas platforms and contacts toward the purchase of three submarines and two warships, Channel 2 News reported Tuesday night.

Channel 2 also reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be questioned again this week on the matter of his conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes regarding a quid pro quo involving positive coverage of Netanyahu in Yedioth in exchange for weakening Yedioth’s rival, Israel Hayom. According to the report, Netanyahu is expected to say that his attorneys had advised him to encourage Mozes to talk and to record him.

The submarine affair involves the suspicion that Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, was also the attorney for the representative of the German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, Michael Ganor, who had recently signed a memorandum of understanding to build new submarines for the Israeli Navy.

Netanyahu allegedly first pushed for three submarines to be added to the navy’s current fleet of nine subs, and in 2015, talks were held for the purchase of the subs from ThyssenKrupp. He also raised the possibility of the purchase in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and asked to purchase two anti-submarine ships. Ya’alon and the defense establishment were firmly against the purchase, and the issue was taken off the table.

After Ya’alon left office, the head of the National Security Council went to Germany together with representatives of Ya’alon’s successor, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In October, the security cabinet approved the final memorandum of understanding between Israel and the Germans.

In November, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ordered the police to look into the affair because of “new information received from the police and new developments in the matter.” However, the Prime Minister’s Office said Shimron never spoke to the prime minister about the purchase of the submarines.

In the other case against Netanyahu, known as Case 1000, involving alleged receipt by Netanyahu and his family of illicit benefits from wealthy patrons in Israel and abroad, Netanyahu’s former media adviser Shaya Segal was interviewed by fraud investigators. It is believed that Netanyahu and his wife received the equivalent in benefits of between 650,000 shekels to 700,000 shekels (about $170,000 to 185,000) from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

Police believe they have enough evidence to back up at least some of the suspicions. A senior legal official said that some of the suspicions in the Case 1000 affair are well-founded, and it is therefore becoming likely that the police will recommend indicting Netanyahu when the investigation is complete.