Ex-NSC chief Nagel: Bibi purchase of submarines was fully justified

Other top defense officials: Additional submarines were corrupt/nonsensical

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed the International Criminal Court’s investigation. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed the International Criminal Court’s investigation.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision in 2016 to purchase three additional diesel-powered submarines from Germany capable of carrying nuclear warheads was justified, former National Security Council chief Yaakov Nagel said Wednesday night.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, Nagel vehemently defended Netanyahu’s positions in Case 3000, the Submarine Affair, despite overwhelming criticism of the submarine deals by most of the defense establishment.
“There is no Case 3000 regarding Netanyahu,” Nagel said, and those who supported the state prosecution for indicting Netanyahu in other cases “should support its decision as clean” in Case 3000 where he was cleared.
Nagel did not defend top Netanyahu aides expected to be indicted for bribery and other crimes, such as David Shimron, David Sharan and Avriel Bar-Yosef. Nor did he defend former Navy chief Eliezer Marom or the German company Thyssenkrupp’s middleman, Miki Ganor. He hopes all the defendants will be acquitted, but if found guilty, they should be punished, he said.
Former defense minister and current Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon and most others in the defense establishment have said either that the additional submarines were unnecessary or that purchasing them was even criminal.
In fact, at the same conference, former directors-general of the Defense Ministry, Amos Yaron and Ilan Biran, as well as former National Security Council chief Uzi Arad, all walloped Netanyahu for either possible criminal conduct or at a minimum gross negligence.
Nagel said that submarines 7, 8 and 9 were needed simply to replace submarines 1,2 and 3, which would need to be retired from service around 2027-2028.
In other words, he said that critics who slammed Netanyahu for allegedly wanting the country to have nine nuclear-armed submarines misunderstood the basic premise that buying submarines 7, 8 and 9 was not to expand, but to maintain a continuous fleet of six submarines even into the future.
Moreover, Nagel said that even as the IDF opposed buying submarines 7, 8 and 9 in 2016, there were navy and IDF high command officials who said that the country would need six functioning submarines into the future.
Finally, Nagel turned a major source of criticism of Netanyahu during the Submarine Affair on its head.
Ya’alon and other ministry officials have said that Netanyahu’s vetoing of a public bidding process in order to contract specifically with Germany for the submarines was a red flag.
In contrast, Nagel said that the ministry was instructed not to publicize a public bidding process and then exceeded its authority when it publicized just such a process.
He said that National Security Council protocols showed that nothing had been hidden from the ministry or the IDF before the final decisions were made, and that both bodies got to fully express their opposition.
Nagel said that the cabinet and the prime minister could overrule the IDF – as they had with deciding to pour funding into the Iron Dome rocket defense project.
Yaron tore into Netanyahu, asking, “The public bidding process was stopped. Was that okay? The prime minister had shares connected in various ways with Thyssenkrupp.... How problematic is it that the prime minister did not report this?”
Next, Yaron moved on to his central theme of “balancing risks,” which he said is the central role of the ministry in deciding where to invest funds.
Given that Israel has insufficient funds to invest in solving every security issue the country faces, it must make choices not about what it would like to have, but about what it needs the most, he said.
Yaron said founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion famously prioritized the air force’s needs over the navy’s needs.
He said that “the moment you go and decide about the navy’s needs and all the other things are not important, that is a problem,” which is what he said happened with Netanyahu and the submarines, and which he considered “a departure from standard norms” for such decision-making processes.
“We need a state commission of inquiry.... Nothing like this ever happened before!” he exclaimed.
Biran echoed Yaron’s criticism, saying: “There is no situation where the navy and the high command don’t know” about a major investment of funds, which he said happened in the Submarine Affair.
“We need to clean this up for the future and not just the past. Of course, it would be better with submarines 7, 8 and 9. But we need more funds for the Ground Forces, so that is a straw man,” he added.
Arad impliedly attacked Nagel’s defense of Netanyahu, saying that the National Security Council is a collector of ideas, not an independent actor that can replace the ministry.
He attacked the practice of Netanyahu and his aides hiding certain aspects of the negotiations until late in the game, and said that the bribery in the Submarine Affair was far worse than former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s bribery, because it involved weighty questions of national security.