Israel has decided to purchase at least three more submarines from a German shipbuilder in order to protect its growing natural energy assets.
But the decision, made by the government after recommendations by the security cabinet, the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry, is under scrutiny by some Israeli media that has been said to be seeking ways to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Attorney David Shimron, who has been the prime minister’s personal lawyer for many years, is also representing the German company that sells the submarines — a sale Israel’s Channel 10 has alleged was opposed by the IDF and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
An IDF spokesperson said Thursday, however, that the military had informed the cabinet of a “need” for new submarines. The National Security Agency (NSA), said in a statement that there has been a “wave of false reports” and that in fact, the deal with Germany to purchase the latest group of new submarines was fully supported by Ya’alon.
Israel’s Channel 10, accused of a vendetta against Netanyahu, reported Tuesday night that Shimron is being accused of a serious conflict of interest because he represents both the German shipbuilder and has held high-level meetings with its Israeli representative, Miki Ganor.
Shimron told media in a statement, “I have not spoken with any state officials about the privatization of the naval shipyard nor have I dealt with any state officials about vessels purchased by the State of Israel.”
Likewise, Netanyahu told Channel 10 that he has never discussed Shimron’s private clients with him. “The only reason for the deal with the Germans is strategic and economic considerations,” he said.
In a statement on his Facebook page late Wednesday, the prime minister noted that the agreement on the submarines was carried out “in an orderly, professional manner with no outside influence and with the recommendation of all the professional bodies in the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the National Security Agency.”
The Israel Navy currently has a fleet of five submarines, plus a sixth that is to be delivered within the next two years.
Netanyahu announced at a cabinet meeting last month that negotiations were close to completion for the purchase of three more submarines for the Israel Navy, at a cost of NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion), pointing out the acquisition was a strategically important move.
The prime minister has said the submarines will play an important part in the protection of Israel’s natural gas fields, and in the defense of the Jewish State against a nuclear-armed Iran.
“The acquisition of ships was done in a professional, organized way without any external influences,” said the National Security Council in a statement.
“In the course of preparations to protect natural gas fields and installations the government decided to purchase four ships. The decision was taken on recommendation of the security administration, the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry. During the course of our investigation, a number of possibilities were suggested for acquiring ships in accordance with the operational requirements of the IDF. At the end of our professional investigation it was decided based on political, operational, technological and budgetary considerations to base the acquisition on the agreement between the Israeli and German governments.”
The Council also underlined the fact that then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was involved in the decision-making process.
“The decision was supported by then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Ministry, and various officials from other government offices. It was also supported by then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in accordance with the IDF’s position. Within the framework of the deal, Israel was granted a significant grant from the German government by virtue of the special relationship between the two nations, rendering the cost of the project lower than any of the other alternatives.”
Former head of the National Security Council General Yaacov Amidror (res.) explains to Channel 2 how the process of deciding to buy the submarines was made (in Hebrew):