PM dismisses submarine deal row: ‘I’ll be here a long time’
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PM dismisses submarine deal row: ‘I’ll be here a long time’

Confident Netanyahu says latest allegations of conflict of interest are hot air, accuses opponents of ‘industry of negativity’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on November 20, 2016. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on November 20, 2016. (Emil Salman/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday dismissed allegations of wrongdoing in a multi-billion shekel deal to purchase German submarines, telling lawmakers that he would “be here a long time.”

Opposition politicians have called for an inquiry into an agreement to acquire German submarines amid reports that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer worked for the German shipbuilder selling Israel the vessels.

At a Likud faction meeting Monday, Netanyahu told fellow lawmakers, the gathered press and the wider public they should stop trying to torpedo his tenure.

“You can calm down, I’ll be here a long time,” he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/ GPO/ FLASH90)
Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/ GPO/ FLASH90)

The grinning prime minister then called for the public to decide on the matter.

“Present your positions to the public,” he told his critics, “we will present our positions and achievements and the public will decide. That’s how democracy works.”

“I am saying this because there are some who constantly insist on besmirching the name of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “There is what I call an ‘industry of negativity’ that constantly [says] how bad things are here, how it is no good here, how much wrongdoing there is.

“I say exactly the opposite,” the prime minister said, apparently addressing opposition MKs and the media. “It is no wonder that those people who are behind the industry of negativity are also the ones who constantly, each week and sometimes every day, send up balloons full of hot air… That is what will happen this time also.”

Shortly after Netanyahu delivered his comments, former prime minister Ehud Barak renewed his criticism of the premier. He wrote on Twitter that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan should “wake up, before you also lose public trust.”

“You must investigate,” Barak said, doubling down on his calls made earlier this week after the submarine story broke, “In Germany, too.”

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on Monday called on the attorney general, state comptroller, and Knesset to probe the case.

“There is no alternative to exposing the entire case to daylight,” said Herzog, adding that “the person who is afraid of daylight is Bibi Netanyahu.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also doubled down on his call for a “thorough investigation” into the allegations. “I have seen, for three days already, efforts to… make the submarines affair disappear,” he said at the start of the weekly faction meeting. “It won’t work.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyer and coalition negotiator David Shimron (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The prime has ridden out other controversies, including several investigations into alleged financial irregularities at the prime minister’s official residence.

On Sunday Netanyahu broke the record for serving the longest single stretch as Israel’s prime minister, eclipsing founding father David Ben-Gurion’s second term, although he still has a long way to go to beat Ben-Gurion for total time served. Netanyahu, in his second stint at the helm, has served for 2,790 consecutive days. New elections are not scheduled for another three years.

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