Report: Ya'alon pleads ignorance over Iranian links to submarine deal
As defense establishment struggles to conform to a consistent version over knowledge of Iranian involvement in Israel's submarine deal with a German company, fresh details obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth gainsay Lieberman's claims that ‘it was known in 2004’ as former defense minister Ya'alon was reportedly unaware of any such involvement.
The new information indicates that Ya’alon was not privy to any details of Iranian involvement whatsoever and that officials at the Security of the Defense Establishment (SDE) apparently did not see fit to inform him.
Indeed, Ya’alon reportedly told his close associates he read about the news in Yedioth Ahronoth and was surprised by the revelations.
Officials at the Defense Ministry have commented on the affair, describing it as a “serious failing” on the part of Israel’s secret keepers who were obligated to keep him abreast of the details, particularly since he was reaching his own conclusions on whether to execute the deal with another German company, even if he was opposed to it.
Unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ya’alon opposed the acquisition of three more submarines from the ThyssenKrupp conglomerate for operational reasons.
According to the one-time Netanyahu loyalist, Israel had no need for them and only after resigning in May shortly before it was made clear that Netanyahu was planning to relieve him of his post as defense minister was the deal advanced and approved in the cabinet.
According to the new details, Ya’alon was also unacquainted with information showing that Iran held almost 8% shares in the German company, a percentage that was reduced to 4.5% as American sanctions intensified.
Moreover, he was not notified that a representative from the Iranian government-owned Foreign Investment Company (IFIC) sat on the board of directors of ThyssenKrupp until 2005—the same period during which the dialogue was taking place between Israel and the company in order to finalize specifications of the submarines.
The new information gainsays statements made on Monday evening in which Ya’alon’s successor Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu), announced that Iranian involvement was known about as early as 2004.
Lieberman’s comments also contradicted original claims made by the defense establishment just days prior that they were never aware of any such involvement.
On Tuesday however, this position completely changed when the Defense Ministry announced, "Following a thorough check carried out by the Defense Ministry over the last few days with the relevant officials, it has become clear that the aforementioned issue was known since 2004 about IFIC's holding 4.5%."
The myriad of inconsistencies which have ensued since the affair surfaced have caused concern over the conduct of the Defense Ministry reaching the highest echelons of its ranks.
Indeed, the denials were made by the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment (SDE) Nir Ben Moshe and Defense Ministry Director-general Udi Adam who maintained their stance until Lieberman delivered his surprising statement utterly contradicting it.
The Prime Minister's Office insisted on Tuesday that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the National Security Council knew of the Iranian government's investment in ThyssenKrup.
“The issue was known. 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."
Following the exposure of the Iranian involvement, which raises questions about the level of access the Iranian shareholders would have to one of the IDF's most classified projects, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) asked Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Avi Dichter (Likud) to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the failings which have come to light.