Israel’s Attorney-General has flatly contradicted Benjamin Netanyahu’s account of how he approved German submarine sales to Egypt without telling his defence minister or the head of Israel’s armed forces.
In a live TV broadcast on Saturday evening, the under-fire prime minister said he approved the subs sale in 2015 based on secret intelligence which he shared with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. On Sunday, however, Mandelblit’s office pointed declared that no such intelligence was shared.
Israeli media have ridiculed Netanyahu for having intelligence that he could not share with either his defence minister or the head of the armed forces, and opposition parties have demanded a public inquiry.
The issue of submarines is a sore point for Netanyahu, whose cousin David Shimron has been indicted over his role in Israel’s decision to buy submarines from German firm ThyssenKrupp.
Israeli media has noted that Shimron shared a law firm with Netanyahu confidante Yitzhak Molcho, a lawyer who worked on Israel’s negotiations with foreign governments.
Shimron, who also acted for authorised ThyssenKrupp agent Mickey Ganor, is suspected of offering bribes, while Netanyahu reportedly supported a deal for Israeli subs and ships from the German company despite military commanders telling him that they were not needed.
In 2017, Israel’s navy suddenly said it needed three German-made Dolphin AIP-class submarines “as fast as possible”. The news took military leaders by surprise, contradicting all previous statements by the IDF.
Netanyahu got involved in the £1 billion deal with ThyssenKrupp to buy the subs without the blessing of then Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, prompting Israeli Police to investigate whether the prime minister improperly favoured the company. No charges were brought.
Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the Germans were so concerned about the deal that they insisted on the purchase contract including a get-out clause should kick-backs be discovered.
Both Shimron and Netanyahu deny any wrongdoing.