Photo: IDF Spokesperson
INS Rahav
Photo: IDF Spokesperson

Netanyahu on German submarines: Everything is documented

Opposition calls to launch inquiry into the deal as Zionist Union MK plans to file complaint with the Israel Bar Association against Netanyahu's lawyer, who represented German shipyard as the PM was pushing to close deal with same company.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning repeated his claim that he did not know his lawyer, David Shomron, was representing a German shipyard while pushing for the acquisition of three submarines from that shipyard despite objections from the defense establishment, adding "everything is okay, everything is documented."



"As the prime minister of Israel, I dedicate the lion's share of my time to national security," Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting. "Israel's security necessitates the acquisition of submarines ... These are strategic weapon systems. Bolstering Israel's security was the only consideration guiding me in the deal over the submarines and nothing more."


Over the weekend, opposition head Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called to establish a Knesset inquiry commission to investigate the matter.


"In light of the grave statements made by former defense minister Ya'alon concerning his objections to the submarines deal, there is no option but to establish a parliamentarian inquiry commission that would investigate all state-related aspects concerning such a sensitive case, including the involvement of the prime minister's close associates in the deal," Herzog said.


Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the INS Rahav submarine that arrived in Haifa (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the INS Rahav submarine that arrived in Haifa (Photo: Reuters)


Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also called for a criminal investigation into the case "so we can understand why the Germans hired Shomron, and how much they paid him."


In an interview with Channel 2 Lapid asserted that "decisions were made in an unprofessional manner."


"We voted on it at the cabinet and at the ministerial committee, had discussions with the National Security Council, and all of this time none of us knew the prime minister's personal attorney was involved in these deals," Lapid, who was a cabinet member at the time, said.


"Why do you think the Germans hired Shomron? Because of his knowledge? They hired him because he's the closest man to Israel's prime minister. This created a situation created in which we were negotiating with the Germans while they knew the prime minister's personal lawyer was working for them, and we didn't," Lapid went on to say.


Former prime minister Ehud Barak also commented on the issue, saying "Submarines are vital, but public trust is even more vital. There are a lot of question marks. That is why, as Bogie (former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon) says, we must investigate."


MK Mickey Rosenthal (Zionist Union) said intends to file a complaint with the Israel Bar Association's Ethics Committee on Sunday against David Shomron, saying he acted in a conflict of interests and acted against the ethical code.


Legal ethics experts say Shomron could find himself in a bind, and has two options when facing the Bar Association: He could either claim he did not update Netanyahu on his conflict of interests, in essence admitting to breaking the ethical code, or he could contradict the prime minister's version and say he did tell him he was representing Israeli businessman Micki Ganor, who mediated the deal with the German shipyard.


Shomron, meanwhile, said in response to Rosenthal's complaint that "There is no ethical problem with representing Mr. Ganor in his dealings with the shipyard and there is no contradiction with any other client I represent. There is no connection between Mr. Ganor and the prime minister. The prime minister does not negotiate with Mr. Ganor or the shipyard, rather, to the best of my knowledge, he deals with the issues of the acquisition itself with the German government."


Surprising support of the prime minister came from his political rival—and coalition partner—Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi). "On the submarines: Prime Minister Netanyahu is not corrupted," Bennett wrote on Twitter. "He would never exchange Israel's security for money."


Culture Minister Miri Regev also added her voice in his support of Netanyahu. "How low can you sink?" she wrote on Twitter. "You've reached the bottom and haven't found anything. It's time to release the pressure."


Meanwhile, acting-National Security Advisor Yaakov Nagel told Channel 2's "Meet the Press" on Saturday that "there was no argument" with the defense establishment regarding the acquisition of the three submarines.


"There were a lot of people confusing the facts,” he said. “We are at a point in which we want to secure the German government's commitment to sell us the submarines with a discount. The negotiations with the shipyards are still going to take a long time, we're far from signing a contract. It'll take at least two more years, we haven't even started negotiating."


'Urgent vote right before Yom Kippur' 

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit said Saturday that members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee were asked on the eve of Yom Kippur to urgently approve the acquisition of a ship to defend Israel's off-shore gas rig. The ship, he said will be built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, the same German shipyard involved in the acquisition deal of the three submarines.


"The urgency of the timing was worrying. Transferring millions of shekels right before the holiday? What happened?" Margalit said.


"And then I asked a simple question: Why should the funding for such a deal, NIS 1.5 billion, come from the defense budget? Why can't it come from gas revenues?" he recounted.


"The answer I received was that this is what was decided, and that there was a 'special discount' for the deal, and that's why we needed to urgently close it," Margalit said.


"It was urgent for someone that this would happen while the Knesset was on break on the eve of Yom Kippur. Are those the same representatives? Was another deal worth billions of shekels approved with the mediators and representatives being close associates of the prime minister?"


Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Avi Dichter was unavailable for comment.


Yuval Karni, Itamar Eichner, Moran Azulay, Yael Freidson and Amihai Attali contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 11.20.16, 09:42
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