Israeli Submarine Scandal: What You Need to Know as the Probe Gets Closer to Netanyahu

Israel's submarine affair took a new turn on Monday morning, when six suspects were brought in for police questioning as part of the investigation into possible wrongdoing

Benjamin Netanyahu tours the new Rahav submarine in Haifa's port, January 12, 2016.
Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israel's "submarine affair" took a new turn on Monday morning, when six suspects were brought in for police questioning as part of the investigation. Three of the suspects are central figures in the scandal, and some are very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is the focus of a police investigation, which is probing possible wrongdoing involving Netanyahu's personal lawyer and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp's local representative.

One suspect brought in for questioning on Monday is a former Defense Ministry official who took part in the opinion given regarding the acquisition of the submarines, the second is a former military man-turned businessman who was closely involved in the deal and the third is another central figure in the affair. The three other suspects have family and work relations with the main three suspects.

So what happened?

Israel Police are looking into allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, adviser and cousin David Shimron lobbied defense officials on behalf ThyssenKrupp for a multimillion dollar submarine sale. The questions: Did it happen, was Netanyahu aware of it (he denies it) and most seriously, if he took any steps to make it happen.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon testified to the police that Netanyahu was directly and actively involved in canceling a previous Defense Ministry bid for the purchase of subs so that they could be purchased from ThyssenKrupp, television’s Channel 2 News has reported.

According to that report, Ya’alon also told the police that Netanyahu conducted talks with German government officials to purchase the vessels from ThyssenKrupp behind the back of the government defense establishment. He also said the prime minister also allegedly wanted to purchase two anti-submarine ships, but the deal was shelved in the face of vehement opposition by Ya’alon and the defense establishment.

It was after Ya’alon left office that the head of the National Security Council went to Germany together with representatives of Ya’alon’s successor, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to negotiate over the subs, and subsequently the security cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding that would replace three old subs by purchasing three new ones.

Unlike the other criminal investigations Netanyahu is currently embroiled in, Case 3000 is much more technically complex and therefore harder for the average citizen to grasp. But the military is a sacred cow in Israeli society, and if it is proven that the purchase of equipment to protect them has been rigged, it could spark a more serious reaction than shenanigans involving expensive baubles or media wars.