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Photo: Olivier Fitoussi
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Didn't take a penny into his pocket
Photo: Olivier Fitoussi
Ben-Dror Yemini
Netanyahu didn’t sell Israel’s security
Op-ed: Even if the prime minister did know about his advisers’ involvement in the submarine affair, and he likely did, not for a moment did he think he was doing anything wrong. Even if his associates were making a profit from the deal, he still believed it would benefit the state.
Tell me, I am asked over and over again, both by friends and by people who aren’t my friends, have you people in the media gone mad? Do you really think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sold the state’s interest to help his friends get rich?

 

 

You’re creating the impression that “Netanyahu is a traitor,” without actually saying the word. It’s worse than what they did to the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, some even say. And in any event, none of his supporters buy into your claims. You’re simply lying.

 

When you hear such a claim once, it can be tossed aside. When you hear it over and over again, in different wordings, instead of shutting yourself up in a bubble—you should listen to what these people are saying. They are crying out with all their heart. They are unwilling to listen to any more claims against Netanyahu in the submarine affair, in which he isn’t even an official suspect. In any event, if this feeling is shared by many people, and not just foolish fans, it deserves our attention.

 

Netanyahu and his lawyer, David Shimron, who is a suspect in the submarine affair. No one ‘sold’ the state’s interests (Photo: EPA, Yaron Berner)
Netanyahu and his lawyer, David Shimron, who is a suspect in the submarine affair. No one ‘sold’ the state’s interests (Photo: EPA, Yaron Berner)

 

There is truth to these claims. No matter what else is revealed in the submarine affair, Netanyahu didn’t sell Israel’s security to pour a fortune into his associates’ pockets. And if that’s what people concluded from the things I wrote in recent months, I would like to clarify that it wasn’t my intention, and I assume it wasn’t the intention of most of those who wrote about it either.

 

So what really happened? There are too many testimonies, including a state’s witness, and only a fool would be incapable of understanding that this is probably one of the gravest affairs in Israel’s history. It’s not just connections between capital and government, it’s connections between capital, security and government. But again, no one “sold” the state’s interests.

 

We can, and must, assume that the people involved in the affair were certain that they were doing the right thing. What did they do? They advanced another deal, perhaps added another submarine to the list, believing it would benefit the state, and yes, their pockets too. But they didn’t think they were damaging the state. They believed they were helping the state, and at the same time, making a profit. It’s true that the line between the personal interest and the national interest is being rapidly erased, but their excuse for benefitting themselves was that it would benefit the state too.

 

Where was Netanyahu in this whole affair? The growing number of testimonies that he advanced the deal, or expanded it, without the required consultations—especially with the Defense Ministry—should be taken seriously. I believe former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had clear and scathing things to say about these issues. His claims may seem “suspicious” because he was fired by Netanyahu, but this isn’t a case of revenge. He said these things after connecting what he didn’t know with what he did know—and the result is alarming.

 

So there are two possibilities. The first is that Netanyahu didn’t know that two of his advisers were involved in the deal. On the criminal level, this may be the case. On the public level, come on. Two of his closest associates are involved in a huge strategic deal and he doesn’t know about it?

 

The fact is that even if he did know something, and he likely did, he still thought it would benefit the state. Are his associates making a profit? Let them make a profit. He didn’t take a penny into his pocket. Not in this affair.

 

So even in the worst scenario, in which Netanyahu did know about his two advisers’ involvement and he’s lying when he says he didn’t know, he didn’t think for a moment that he was doing anything wrong. It’s an error of judgement, disgraceful conduct, corruption—definitely public, and perhaps criminal too. But that’s where it stops.

 

So to all those who have attacked me with the accusation “you’ve all gone mad,” I would like to say: You’re right. When it comes to Israel’s security, there’s something distorted in the impression that has been created. Netanyahu is up to his neck in a swamp of corruption, but we must dismiss any suspicion that anyone intentionally harmed the state. But sadly, even this is no consolation.

 

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