Report: Israel Changed Its Submarine Acquisition Chief When Netanyahu Became Prime Minister

According to Channel 10's Raviv Drucker, in 2009 Israel's submarine acquisition chief was supplanted by the businessman in the middle of a conflict-of-interest scandal involving Netanyahu.

YouTube screenshot of Shaike Barkat, a Six-Day War hero who built Israel's submarine program.
YouTube screenshot

Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker said Sunday the man who crafted Israel’s submarine-acquisition project was in 2009 pushed aside in favor of Miki Ganor, a businessman in the middle of conflict-of-interest allegations concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Drucker made the allegation on his Facebook page, basing his report on comments by journalist Ben Caspit, a longtime writer for the daily Maariv.

According to Drucker, the man known as Israel’s “Submarine King,” Shaike Barkat, was supplanted by Ganor, the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp, the German company that has sold submarines to Israel.

Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, also works for Ganor. After a term in the late 1990s, Netanyahu returned as Israeli prime minister in March 2009.

Drucker, an investigative reporter who also occasionally writes op-ed pieces for Haaretz, posted the following on Facebook in Hebrew:

“There is one central figure in the submarines affair who hasn’t said a word about it to this day. Shaike Barkat was an important figure in the heroic period of the Six-Day War.

“He built the submarine project from the end of the 1980s and, as a link between Israel and Germany, became the indispensable ‘Submarine King.’ Barkat was responsible for the contracts behind the purchases of the five first submarines from Germany.

“In 2009 he was surprisingly ousted in favor of Miki Ganor, represented by David Shimron. Many eyebrows have since been raised about this surprising decision by Germany. Ganor had previously handled mainly real estate, and his background in the navy was much less heroic than Barkat’s.

“The 82-year-old Barkat refuses to speak to the media, but for the first time we’re now able to publish what he has told his confidants. His version was relayed to us via journalist Ben Caspit.”

Barkat says that in 2009 Israel’s navy chief at the time, Eliezer Marom, visited Germany and had a dinner meeting with a shipyard director.

“He was late, and as we were walking, Marom said, ‘Barkat again? What’s he doing here?’” Barkat said, as quoted by Drucker via Caspit.

“The shipyard director told him I was their man. In retrospect it turned out that this was the first sign. In May-June 2009 the same director visited Israel, and a meeting was set up with Marom,” Barkat said.

“We were about to enter the meeting – the director, a senior Defense Ministry official and I – but suddenly Avriel Bar-Yosef, a former brigadier general in the navy, comes over to us and says, ‘The naval commander will not hold a meeting if Barkat comes.'

“We were in shock. The senior official asked, ‘What’s this nonsense about? Let’s just go.' The German director said that without me he wouldn’t go in, but I gave in and left.

“After the meeting the director called me, he was upset, we were very close, and he told me what had gone down. Marom and Bar-Yosef were at the meeting. The commander said that if Barkat continued to represent the German shipyard, no more submarines would be ordered. ‘I will order from the French,’ he said. The commander, Eliezer Marom, added that Miki Ganor should be the shipyard representative.

“The director was taken straight from that meeting to Jerusalem to meet with the new finance minister, Yuval Steinitz. The director told me after meeting with Steinitz that Bar-Yosef and Ganor were there. ‘This guy is crazy,’ the director told me. ‘Do you know what he said about the naval commander? That he wants 5 percent.’ The director was talking about Miki Ganor. I didn’t know Ganor at all.

“That evening I met the German director again; he looked pale and said the navy commander had made clear to him that if Ganor didn’t replace Barkat, no more submarines would be ordered from the German shipyards. I told the director he was young with a whole career ahead of him, and I was ready to give in.”

Marom said in response: “I was strongly opposed to the purchase of a sixth submarine while Miki Ganor represented the shipyards, and I even sent a letter voicing my opposition to the acquisition to decision-makers.

"Throughout my service I never made a single decision to purchase anything from the shipyard represented by Ganor. On the contrary. All the other claims are a bunch of slander. Defense was the only matter that concerned me.”

Steinitz responded: “I don’t recall the meeting you mention. I stress that I never knew anything about the roles of Barkat or Ganor as mediators in acquisitions for the defense establishment, which I only learned about in media reports in recent days. My unequivocal support behind strengthening the navy via more ships and submarines has been known for the past 20 years.”

Avriel Bar-Yosef responded via his attorney: “Mr. Bar Yosef does not recall ever attending a meeting with the naval commander and [the German shipyard director]. In any case, there is no truth to the claim that he asked Mr. Barkat not to participate in the meeting, nor did he hear anyone demand that the Israeli representative be switched.”