Egypt on Friday formally received a third submarine of the four it has been promised, as part of a deal with Germany that has caused considerable controversy in Israel.
A ceremony held at the shipyards of shipbuilding company Thyssenkrupp in the city of Kiel was attended by the commander of the Egyptian Navy, Ahmed Khaled.
The Type 209 submarine, a highly advanced model, will now undergo an addition period of testing before arriving in Egypt in several months’ time.
Egypt received the first two submarines from the deal in 2016 and 2017. The fourth is expected to be delivered in 2021.
Egypt’s purchase of the submarines, and specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval of the deal, have raised many questions in Israel, with numerous former high-ranking Israeli officials saying they were not consulted nor updated on the matter.
These have included the former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, and former chief of the Mossad spy agency Tamir Pardo.
According to a Channel 13 report, Amos Gilad, former director of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, traveled to Germany in 2015 to lobby against the sale, only to find out from Merkel’s staff that Netanyahu had personally approved it without telling anyone.
According to reports, defense officials and others raised concerns about the sale of the advanced weaponry by German firm Thyssenkrupp to Israel’s neighbor and former foe. Germany does not require Israeli approval for such a sale, but had evidently been open to hearing Israeli concerns. The US and some other allies will only sell advanced arms to Middle Eastern countries that are either a generation removed from the weapons sold Israel, or will run the sale by Jerusalem first, as a way of protecting the Jewish state in any future conflict.
During a March interview with Channel 12 news, Netanyahu said only a select few officials were briefed in real time about the reason for Israel not objecting to the submarine deal with Egypt, which has been tied to a corruption scandal involving several of the prime minister’s associates, but so far not Netanyahu himself.
“Whoever needed to know, knew,” Netanyahu said.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Netanyahu’s former national security adviser Jacob Nagel have both denied the premier’s claim that they knew of the reason behind the approval.
Pardo has been quoted by the Kan public broadcaster as saying, “Netanyahu’s version makes no sense. I don’t believe that there exists a secret that is hidden from the IDF chief of staff, the defense minister and the Mossad chief.”
Netanyahu’s office responded to the report by saying: “Of course there are such occurrences, and they have taken place with all prime ministers since the establishment of the state.”
The prime minister has also said that had he not given approval to Germany, Egypt would have bought the submarines from a different source, and that he only okayed it for security reasons. Some have suggested that Netanyahu’s financial interests in a company with ties to Thyssenkrupp were suspicious. He has denied any connection to his own personal financial interests or shares, calling such allegations a “terrible blood libel.”
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.