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Former Israeli defense minister slams Netanyahu over submarine scandal

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony following the arrival of the INS Tanin, a Dolphin AIP class submarine, to a naval base in the northern city of Haifa, Israel, Tuesday, September 23, 2014
AP images/AMIR COHEN
Former defense minister Moshe Arens says nobody 'clipped coupons' when he procured Israel's first submarines

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the country’s submarine scandal, saying he has “no idea” how the purchase of billions of shekels-worth of strategic defense equipment was entrusted to “middlemen and wheeler-dealers”.

Speaking in Tel Aviv at a national security conference hosted by the opposition Yesh Atid party, Mr. Arens explained that when he procured Israel’s first submarines from Germany during the Gulf War, he dispatched a delegation to convince a reluctant Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

“There were no middlemen or agents, and nobody ‘clipped coupons’,” he said, using a Hebrew idiom to describe people who derive undue benefit from deals, including by taking commission from third-party business transactions.

Mr. Arens further revealed that he had recommended to the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign and Defense Affairs Committee, Avi Dichter, that the next purchase of submarines be transacted without the involvement of middlemen.

Israeli police are investigating suspicions of corruption in a multi-million dollar deal to procure three submarines from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, in a scandal that has engulfed many of the prime minister’s closest associates.

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The investigation, dubbed ‘Case 3000’, revolves around ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel, Micky Ganor, who hired Netanyahu’s personal attorney (and cousin) David Shimron to represent him.

Among suspects are a former Navy commander, a retired deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, and a previous chief of staff in Netanyahu’s bureau.

Mr. Netanyahu is not a suspect, but will reportedly be asked to give testimony.

Mr. Arens, who served three times as defense minister for Likud between 1983-1999, gave Netanyahu his first big break in politics. As Israel’s US Ambassador in 1982, Mr. Arens appointed Netanyahu, then a 33-year-old marketing executive, as his deputy chief of mission. After Likud won the 1988 elections, Mr. Arens became foreign minister and brought in his protégé, who had served in the interim as envoy to the UN, as his deputy.

In his opening remarks at the conference on Thursday, Mr. Arens said he wished to dispel rumors that he was joining Yesh Atid, the centrist party that aspires to unseat Likud.

The comment prompted current Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to quip from the audience: “Nobody’s perfect.”

Eylon Aslan-Levy is an anchor and correspondent at i24NEWS

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