Israel’s Channel 10 television has written “proof” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer lobbied the Defense Ministry on behalf of a German shipbuilder that wanted a lucrative contract, the network announced on Tuesday.
Hebrew-language media reported this week on allegations that David Shimron used his close relationship to Netanyahu to push Israel to purchase several submarines from ThyssenKrupp, as well as to allow the company to build a shipyard here, effectively outsourcing lucrative maintenance of the naval vessels.
Channel 10 said Tuesday that it had an email proving Shimron’s intervention in the deal, pushed by Netanyahu.
After Israel issued an international tender for naval boats needed to protect Israel’s gas fields in the Mediterranean in 2014, Shimron reportedly called the legal adviser of the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben-Ari, to inquire why a tender was issued, as he wanted the contract to be given to the German company ThyssenKrupp without any competitive bidding.
Ben-Ari then apparently sent an email detailing the call to Defense Ministry Director General Dan Harel.
“In addition to receiving a copy of the inquiry from the head of the National Security Council, I was also called by Adv. David Shimron who is representing the ThyssenKrupp Consortium, who wanted to know if we were stopping the tender procedures in order to negotiate with his clients, as was requested by the Prime Minister,” says the email dated July 22, 2014.
Both Shimron and Netanyahu have repeatedly denied that either of them had any knowledge of the actions of the other regarding this tender and that both acted independently.
Netanyahu has come to Shimron’s defense, issuing a statement Tuesday calling the attorney “straight as an arrow,” and “a man who is over-scrupulous in adhering to the law and regulations, as well as a first-rate lawyer.”
In response to the email, Shimron told Channel 10 that he had never mentioned the prime minister to Ben-Ari.
“I also did not know anything about the prime minister’s request, which I am learning about for the first time now from the media and the connections made by Ben-Ari,” Shimron said.
“The only explanation for this email … is that Ben-Ari knew about the prime ministers request, which I had not the faintest knowledge of. I also had absolutely no knowledge of the prime minister’s involvement with regard to the boats. Any other interpretation is not connected to the truth.”
The scandal started after it emerged last week that Netanyahu had decided to purchase three new submarines for the Israeli navy over the objections of the Defense Ministry and other senior military officials. ThyssenKrupp makes the submarines, a key element in Israel’s strategic arsenal, and which are subsidized by the German government.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the multi-billion shekel deal for the submarines, saying that bolstering Israel’s long-term security needs was the “only consideration” behind the purchases.
Meanwhile, ThyssenKrupp on Tuesday denied that Shimron was officially working for it.
While Hebrew-language media said Shimron had been hired by ThyssenKrupp’s exclusive representative in Israel, businessman Michael Ganor, the German company denied that Ganor had Thyssenkrupp’s approval to hire Shimron.
“Our sales partners are contractually obligated to consult with Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems before engaging sub-contractors. This has not happened,” the company told the Times of Israel, adding that it had no further information on the issue.
“We do what we always do as part of our process, if we get indications of irregularities: We fully check and clarify the facts,” ThyssenKrupp said.
On Sunday, the attorney general announced there were no grounds for a criminal investigation, but said a probe into possible other issues regarding the deal would continue.
Opposition lawmakers have vowed to push for a parliamentary inquiry into the affair.