PMO insists Netanyahu didn't know about Iranian involvement in submarine deal
Despite Defense Minister Lieberman admitting his ministry did know of Iran's shares in ThyssenKrupp, contracted to build submarines and warships for the Israeli Navy, the Prime Minister's Office says neither he nor the National Security Council were aware of that; cabinet ministers also say weren't briefed.
On Tuesday afternoon, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman admitted that his ministry has known since 2004 that an Iranian government-owned foreign investment company holds almost five percent of the shares in ThyssenKrupp, which is contracted to build three submarines and four warships for the Israeli Navy.
"The issue was known," Lieberman told the Knesset's Finance Committee on Tuesday, only days after his ministry denied having any such knowledge during the time of the transaction.
"Many things were decided before I got to the Defense Ministry, but at the end of the day whoever looks over the protocols—including the cabinet and the National Security Council—will see that this is not what it seems. The reality and the facts are far from what we hear in the media. In any event, it was known and it has no impact," he insisted. "The State of Israel had no other alternative."
The Prime Minister's Office explained that military acquisition deals were done by the Defense Ministry.
Officials in Netanyahu's close circle added that the warning from Israel's intelligence community of the Iranian-bought shares in ThyssenKrupp and of the danger that classified information could leak to Tehran came in 2004—when Ariel Sharon was prime minister.
When asked when Netanyahu learned of Iran's involvement in the company, officials at the PMO said: "On Friday, from the report in Yedioth Ahronoth."
Netanyahu is not the only one to claim he did not know of Iran's investment in ThyssenKrupp. On Tuesday night, a member of the security cabinet also said he and his fellow ministers were not briefed on the matter, noting the issue caused a lot of embarrassment among the ministers.
Defense officials who were involved in negotiations over the deal insisted on Tuesday that out of all the options on the table, this was the least bad one.