Education Minister Naftali Bennett came to the defense of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday after Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid accused him of seeking to bully police investigators into dropping their probe of suspected wrongdoing in the purchase of submarines from Germany.
Lapid alleged that Netanyahu sought to intimidate the Israel Police with a budget cut in order to quash ongoing investigation into the submarine deal. Although Netanyahu himself has not been named in the investigation, others close to him were arrested on Monday and held for questioning by police. His office had no comment on the matter on Monday.
“The timing is not coincidental. This isn’t a technical decision. This is a threatening letter,” Lapid said, referring to a bill proposed by coalition chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) that would transfer police budget oversight to the Public Security Ministry. “There is no chance in the world, no way, that this process goes ahead and the prime minister is not behind it. Him personally.”
Shortly after Lapid’s attack, Bennett responded: “As a cabinet member who supported the submarine deal, I wish to say that to the best of my knowledge, the motives in approving the deal, formulating it, and advancing it, were solely security related,” Bennett said at his Jewish Home faction meeting.
“I have no doubt the prime minister acted in accordance with the law, I give him full support and I am convinced, based on the information I have right now, that there was no fault in his behavior,” he said.
Police did not name the six detainees, who they said are suspected of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering.
A joint statement released by Israel Police and the Tax Authority on Monday said: “At the time of the events under question, some of the suspects were public servants and some worked in the private sector.”
However, according to Israeli media reports, one of the suspects is Avriel Bar-Yosef, a former deputy head of the National Security Council. David Shimron, a personal attorney for Netanyahu has already been identified as a suspect prior to Monday’s arrests.