Netanyahu kept defense minister in dark about German-Egyptian submarine deal — report
When President Rivlin conveyed concern about the agreement to Merkel, she told him Israel had already approved it
Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.
Israel reportedly gave an official go-ahead to Germany to sell advanced submarines to Egypt without telling its defense minister or the president.
In May 2015, during a visit to Berlin to mark 50 years of Israeli-German diplomatic relations, President Reuven Rivlin told Chancellor Angela Merkel that he had been asked to convey concern about the German deal to sell four submarines and two anti-submarine warships to Cairo, Channel 10 investigative reporter Raviv Drucker reported Tuesday.
To the embarrassment of both, Merkel told Rivlin that Israel had already given the green light for the deal to go forward, Drucker said.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Germany had told Israel it was delaying the signing of a different deal, for Israel to purchase three new submarines, amid a rapidly expanding corruption scandal surrounding several multi-billion-dollar naval agreements between the two countries.
Germany’s transaction with Egypt — which involved submarines very similar in advanced technology to those that Israel has ordered — was vehemently opposed by then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and the defense establishment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied having approved the Egyptian deal when Ya’alon, who found out about the transaction by chance, asked him about it, Yedioth reported.
It was only after Rivlin’s return from Berlin that he realized it had been approved, over the heads of the Defense Ministry.
It was the second time Germany had agreed to sell submarines to Egypt.
In 2009, Netanyahu and the defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, gave their approval to German moves to sell less advanced submarines to then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The deal fell through after Mubarak was ousted and replaced by Mohammad Morsi in 2012 and was only renegotiated after Abdel Fattah el-Sissi came to power in 2014.
Meanwhile, Israeli police have been probing possible corruption in a series of deals that Israel signed with the German shipbuilder, ThyssenKrupp, to buy submarines and ships.
Miki Ganor, the former Israeli agent for ThyssenKrupp, is under arrest in connection with the case, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef. Others suspects have been released or are under house arrest.
Ganor continued Tuesday to negotiate a deal to turn state’s witness via his new lawyer, Eli Zohar, who was at the police fraud squad’s Lahav 433 headquarters in Lod during the day.
On Tuesday, reports emerged that a second individual was also interested in turning state’s witness.
Police believe Ganor holds highly sensitive information about other Israeli defense deals that could implicate additional figures in the defense establishment.
Ganor’s transformation to state’s witness could spell bad news for another suspect in the case, former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom, who has admitted agreeing to recommend Ganor to represent the German shipbuilding giant in Israel but has denied being paid to do so.