Investigation ordered into allegations about involvement of prime minister’s lawyer in defense procurement deal.
Israel’s most senior law officer has ordered an investigation into an alleged scandal involving one of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants over a controversial deal to buy German submarines.
The affair, which has dominated Israeli headlines for days, involves allegations of a serious conflict of interest in the purchase of the submarines.
At the heart of the issue is a claim that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, was representing the German arms manufacturer making the submarines at the same time Netanyahu was pushing for the submarine purchase.
Among the allegations are that Netanyahu purchased the new submarines for the Israeli navy over the objections of his own defense ministry.
Although Netanyahu and Shimron, who is also a relative of the prime minister, have insisted they never spoke about Shimron’s business relationship in the submarine deal, the inquiry was ordered after new information emerged both in the media and in a related investigation.
ThyssenKrupp, the German company behind the submarine contract, said last week it believed there was no misconduct in the purchase.
However, on Wednesday, Israel’s Channel 10 disclosed an email it claimed is proof that Shimron used his close relationship to Netanyahu to lobby for the submarine’s manufacturer with at least one defense official – a claim strenuously denied by Shimron.
According to reports in the Israeli media, the inquiry was also prompted by new information that emerged from the case of a second senior official who was arrested last week on charges of corruption.
Former deputy National Security Council head Avriel Bar-Yosef was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of taking bribes.
The order of an inquiry represents a volte face by the country’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who suggested last week that it was not necessary.
However, a justice ministry statement said that after police received new information on Wednesday, Mandelblit met senior officers, the state prosecutor and senior justice officials.
“At the end of the discussion the attorney general decided to order an examination by the Israel police regarding various aspects related to the affair,” it said. It gave no further details and did not indicate who might be the subjects.
Netanyahu maintains he was unaware his lawyer was advising the seller, and defended the acquisition at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. “The principle that guides me is clear: Israel will be able to defend itself by itself against any enemy, in any field,” he said.
“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.”