22 November 2016
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday defended his under-fire personal lawyer David Shimron as “straight as an arrow,” after reports alleged Shimron sought to use his influence to push through a major submarine deal for the Israeli Navy.
“The prime minister has for many years known attorney David Shimron to be straight as an arrow,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said, describing the attorney as “a man who is over-scrupulous in adhering to the law and regulations, as well as a first-rate lawyer.”
On Monday, Hebrew-language media reported allegations that Shimron had used his close relationship to Netanyahu to push Israel to purchase several submarines from the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, as well as to allow the company to build a shipyard here, effectively outsourcing lucrative maintenance of the naval vessels.
A week ago, Shimron claimed that he “wasn’t in touch with any state official over the issue of Israel’s purchase of naval vessels” and said that his work for the German company while also serving as the prime minister’s lawyer did not constitute a conflict of interest, according to the Haaretz daily.
However, after Israel issued an international tender in 2014 for the purchase of ships to protect newly developed Mediterranean gas fields, Shimron called the legal adviser of the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben-Ari, to inquire why a tender was issued, as he wanted the contract to be given to ThyssenKrupp without a competitive tender process.
According to Channel 10, Shimron never mentioned to Ben-Ari at any point during the phone call that he was representing ThyssenKrupp.
Hebrew language media said Shimron had been hired by ThyssenKrupp’s exclusive representative in Israel, businessman Michael Ganor.
However, the German company denied that Ganor had Thyssenkrupp’s approval to hire Shimron.
“Our sales partners are contractually obligated to consult with Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems before engaging sub-contractors. This has not happened,” the company told The Times of Israel, adding that it had no further information on the issue.
“We do what we always do as part of our process, if we get indications of irregularities: We fully check and clarify the facts,” Thyssenkrupp said.
Following the release of Channel 10’s report, Shimron denied the story, saying he “never complained about the issuance of a tender.”
He said that he merely “turned to the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser with a question. I’m permitted to do that under my conflict of interest agreement, and in this case, my call was strictly a question.”
Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu also asked the Defense Ministry why the contract was opened for competitive bidding, and pressured the Defense Ministry to cancel the tender, which eventually happened.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the multi-billion-shekel deal for the submarines, saying that bolstering Israel’s long-term security needs was the “only consideration” behind the purchases.
On Sunday, the attorney general announced there was no evidence of wrongdoing that might justify a criminal investigation, but said a probe into other unspecified issues regarding the deal would continue.
Opposition lawmakers have vowed to push for a parliamentary inquiry into the affair.