Olmert to News 13: Never imagined Germany would sell submarines to Egypt

Olmert, who offered an exclusive interview to Channel 13’s Udi Segal, said he did not think at the time that the shipyard building strategic weapons for Israel would sell submarines to Egypt.

March 22, 2019 05:30
3 minute read.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed that when he was in the top role, "my position was firm - that Germany would not sell submarines to Egypt, I told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on two different occasions in 2006." 

Olmert, who offered an exclusive interview to Channel 13’s Udi Segal, said he did not think at the time that the shipyard building strategic weapons for Israel would sell submarines to Egypt. 
“During a brief discussion in which the defense establishment was not present, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu announced that he would not object to the sale of submarines to Egypt, and that the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry did not know that he had told the Germans," Olmert told Channel 13. "Netanyahu concealed the fact that he was changing the strategy and policy that was accepted by all the security forces and prime ministers before him, and whispered to the Germans, behind the backs of the security forces, that they could sell such submarines to Egypt.”

He said he did not know what Netanyahu's motives were.

State prosecutors earlier this week were reportedly considering opening yet another criminal graft investigation against Netanyahu, this time for involvement in the submarine affair (Case 3000), which ensnared several close associates of Netanyahu on suspicion that they received illicit funds as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. 

Part of Case 3000 involves the decision by Germany to sell submarines to Egypt. Merkel reported that Jerusalem had indeed green-lighted it. This week, it came out that perhaps it was Netanyahu that had approved the deal without consulting or notifying the appropriate channels.
When Olmert was prime minister, he purchased two submarines - the country’s fourth and fifth. He claimed in his interview that he made the purchasing decision transparently and with the involvement of top military officials. 

In contrast, he described the purchase of Israel’s sixth submarine by Netanyahu as made in opposition to the defense establishment. Still, he said he supported Netanyahu’s choice, just not the way he went about it - secretly and behind the backs of those who needed to know.

Channel 13 asked for a response from Netanyahu’s Likud Party; However, in a statement, the party said that due to the sensitivity of the issue, the matter of the Egyptian submarines is known only to a handful of people in Israel, including the attorney-general, who examined all the materials and ruled that all the decisions of Netanyahu were professional and  exclusively for the benefit of Israel's security.

Regarding Olmert’s not wanting German to sell submarines to Egypt, Channel 13 investigated those statements and confirmed them to be true. 

In 2006, at the first meeting between Olmert and Merkel, the Prime Minister made it clear to the Chancellor that Israel opposed the sale of German submarines to Egypt, although at that time it was about less advanced submarines, and that Egypt was a cold but stable partner for peace, headed by Hosni Mubarak.

Two senior Israeli officials told Channel 13 that in 2007, Olmert repeated this message in another conversation with Merkel. At the same time, senior officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense passed on the same message to the Germans. As a result, as stated, the sale of German submarines to Egypt dropped from the agenda until the end of Olmert's term in early 2009.

Earlier this week, Channel 13 reported that Amos Gilead, former head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security division and today head of IDC Herzliya’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, told the police that Netanyahu gave Germany approval to sell Egypt advanced submarines.

Netanyahu has denied giving a nod to Germany’s selling the submarines to Egypt.

Gilead said that Germany does not need Israeli approval on these matters, but it took the Jewish State’s opinion into account because of the relations between the two countries and the proximity of Egypt to Israel.

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