Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday night that Jerusalem wants to advance a controversial deal signed by the previous Israeli government to purchase submarines from Germany, according to several media reports.
An unnamed senior Israeli official quoted by Haaretz, Walla news and others said that while hosting Merkel for a private dinner at the end of her two-day visit to Israel, Bennett said that he had ordered a reexamination of the deal and that the defense establishment had concluded that the Dolphin-type submarines are necessary.
“The needs of the defense establishment have been re-analyzed by the new government,” the official was reported to have said. “The position of the defense establishment is that we need to be equipped with submarines and we are working to complete the agreement.”
In October 2018, Germany approved a memorandum of understanding with Israel for the construction of three Dolphin-type submarines to be added to Israel’s fleet of six submarines.
Reports at the time indicated that the agreement included a clause according to which the deal would not advance further while the corruption investigation was ongoing. It also gave Germany the right to withdraw from the deal regardless of whether any criminal conduct was ultimately uncovered by police in the purchase.
The scandal also involved the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, allegedly approved by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting or notifying then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. Israel had long been granted an unofficial veto over such sales by Germany.
While several of Netanyahu’s close associates have been indicted in the case, which involves suspicions Israeli officials were bribed to ensure Thyssenkrupp won the contract, the former premier has not been directly implicated and the attorney general has said he is not a suspect.
Bennett’s reported comments to Merkel come a week after Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that he would support the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the affair.
Earlier Sunday, during her farewell visit to the Jewish state near the end of her 16-year term in office, Merkel said that Israel’s security would remain a top priority for “every German government.”
The two leaders also addressed disagreements between them over a future Palestinian state.
“We sometimes disagree on questions such as whether there should be a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but we agree, I think, that there must always be a vision of a lasting democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Merkel said at the cabinet meeting, according to Reuters.
“We are not ignoring the Palestinians,” Bennett said in response to a question at the press conference. “They are our neighbors. They’re not going anywhere; we’re not going anywhere.
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