Is­rael’s Ne­tanyahu backs sub pur­chase amid calls for in­quiry

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu yes­ter­day tried to down­play a brew­ing scan­dal over the pur­chase of Ger­man sub­marines, say­ing his only con­sid­er­a­tion in or­der­ing the deal was for­ti­fy­ing the coun­try’s se­cu­rity.

Ne­tanyahu’s com­ments came amid calls for an in­quiry af­ter it was re­vealed that his per­sonal at­tor­ney, David Shim­ron, had rep­re­sented the Ger­man com­pany build­ing the sub­marines. The re­ports into Shim­ron’s in­volve­ment in the $1.5 bil­lion sale raised con­cerns over a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­ests. Sus­pi­cions of im­pro­pri­ety were height­ened af­ter for­mer De­fense Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon said he was side­lined on the pur­chase plans - which went for­ward af­ter he was re­placed.

Is­rael has or­dered six sub­marines from Ger­many over the past two decades, with the final one sched­uled to be de­liv­ered in 2018. Is­rael re­cently de­cided to pur­chase three new ones to re­place its older sub­marines. “The se­cu­rity of Is­rael re­quires the ac­qui­si­tion of sub­marines and the re­newal of the sub­ma­rine fleet. These are strate­gic weapons sys­tems that en­sure the fu­ture, and I tell you, the very ex­is­tence of the state of Is­rael for decades to come,” Ne­tanyahu told his Cabi­net. “In­creas­ing the se­cu­rity and strength of the state of Is­rael is the only con­sid­er­a­tion that guided me in ac­quir­ing the sub­marines.”

The subs are con­sid­ered cru­cial to Is­rael’s se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly since they are as­sumed to pro­vide it with a “sec­ond strike” nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity if ever at­tacked by nu­clear weapons. Is­rael is widely be­lieved to pos­sess nu­clear weapons, though it has never ac­knowl­edged hav­ing them. But the in­volve­ment of Shim­ron, per­haps Ne­tanyahu’s clos­est as­so­ciate, raised con­cerns that ul­te­rior mo­tives were at play. Ne­tanyahu says he was only made aware of this in re­cent days.

“This is the prime min­is­ter’s royal at­tor­ney, who is also a pri­vate at­tor­ney, and the Ne­tanyahu fam­ily lawyer, and also a lawyer who serves as the prime min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive. He has a fin­ger in ev­ery pot. And it was Ne­tanyahu, of all peo­ple, who did not know that Shim­ron was in­volved with the sub­marines?” wrote Ye­diot Ahronot colum­nist Ben-Dror Yem­ini.

Op­po­si­tion leader Isaac Her­zog has called for a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion of in­quiry to be es­tab­lished. For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Barak also chimed in, tweet­ing: “Sub­marines are es­sen­tial, the pub­lic’s trust is even more

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