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Thu. Nov 17, 2016 News from Israel

  • State Comptroller's final draft on tunnels during operation Protective Edge slams Netanyahu
  • State prosecution to look into German submarine deal to determine if there was conflict of interest on Netanyahu’s part
  • Lieberman answers critics regarding his remarks on freezing West Bank settlements construction: I am a pragmatic right winger not a populist one

Senior officials who have read the final revised draft of the State Comptroller’s report on the 2014 Gaza tunnel threat said that the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intensified significantly. According to the sources, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira enhanced his criticism to focus on the cabinet and specifically Netanyahu and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Shapira appeared to credit Education Minister Naftali Bennett for raising the need to take action against the tunnels and sides with his claim that Netanyahu did not share the severity of the threat with the Security Cabinet before the operation. The main turning point, the report highlights, was a cabinet meeting on June 30 – just before Operation Protective Edge began - during which Bennett pushed for an operation to eliminate the tunnel threat.

Recently, Israel’s submarine deal with Germany made headlines after Israel’s Channel 10 reported that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron represented the German company involved. Netanyahu denied on Thursday that he had any prior knowledge of his long-time personal lawyer’s alleged involvement in the multi-billion shekel deal to purchase German submarines.  Responding to the initial report, Shimron said he “did not discuss these matters with the prime minister,” and denied any effort to influence a decision over the deal. On Thursday, close associates of former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon revealed that intense efforts were made to thwart the deal, which was approved by Netanyahu. About a year ago, the IDF recommended not to purchase the three new submarines within the next five years. In response, Netanyahu pressured the relevant officials in order to persuade them to purchase the submarines. However, the process was halted thanks to the information that the IDF gathered to support its claim and Ya’alon’s firm position regarding the matter. Ya’alon’s close associates said that in February, a day before Netanyahu traveled to Germany in order to sign the deal without holding a discussion regarding the matter beforehand, Ya’alon discovered the prime minister’s intention. Ya’alon called an emergency meeting with Netanyahu and tried to prevent him from signing the deal.The meeting between the two ended in an intense argument. The next day, Netanyahu traveled to Germany and signed a memorandum of understanding with the German company. The state prosecution’s office announced that it would look into the matter to determine if there was a conflict of interest on Netanyahu’s part.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for a second time in twenty-four hours to coordinate with the incoming US administration and to forge relationships that would allow for the renewal of construction in the West Bank. Asked for his thoughts on recent criticisms levelled by Bayit Yeudi Leader Naftali Bennett over the handling of construction in the West Bank, Lieberman responded, "What is the point of using code language if you don’t actually build anything."“I am a pragmatic right winger as opposed to a populist right winger and I will stay that way".  And on the Amona issue he said “I regret that there are people who are trying to mislead the settlers and raise expectations,” Lieberman said. “I wish a solution would be found. We need to look for solutions up until the last minute, but it could be that it won’t help.” Lieberman said that Amona residents and protesters must avoid confrontation with Israeli soldiers during the court-ordered evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona which is set for the end of December.

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