Former Mossad chief says state inquiry needed over submarine sale to Egypt

Former director of the Mossad intelligence agency Tamir Pardo is calling for a state commission of inquiry into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s green-lighting of a German sale of advanced submarines to Egypt, according to Channel 12.

In an affidavit to the High Court of Justice, part of a petition seeking a probe into the so-called submarines affair, Pardo lashes out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for keeping top defense officials in the dark on Israel’s approval for Germany to sell the weapons to Egypt several years ago.

That is “unacceptable, extremely unreasonable” and requires a state commission of inquiry, Pardo writes.

“There cannot be secrets that the Defense Ministry or IDF chief don’t know about,” he adds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with then-outgoing Mossad chief Tamir Pardo during a farewell ceremony in Tel Aviv on January 5, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

During a rare and contentious interview with Channel 12 news in March 2019, Netanyahu said only a select few officials were briefed in real time about the reason for Israel not objecting to the 2014 and 2015 submarine deal with Egypt, which has been tied to a corruption scandal involving several of the prime minister’s associates, but not Netanyahu himself.

“Whoever needed to know, knew,” Netanyahu said, adding that Moshe Ya’alon, the then-defense minister who is now a Knesset member with the Yesh Atid-Telem party, was not among them. Then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White, was also kept in the dark.

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.

Pardo writes that the decision to keep the approval under wraps harmed Israel’s security. “I’ve never encountered this sort of concealment from the most senior defense officials in the State of Israel, and the matter demands explanation,” writes Pardo.