Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar said on Sunday that he has agreed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s proposal to establish a state commission of inquiry into the submarine affair.
The affair involves suspected improprieties by people close to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the navy’s acquisition of submarines and missile ships from the German company Thyssenkrupp.
“The time at which the defense minister will choose to bring this before the cabinet is up to him,” said Sa'ar in an interview to Kan’s Reshet Bet radio channel. “We have given the matter a green light.”
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The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which appealed to the High Court of Justice demanding that the commission be formed, called on Gantz and Sa'ar to bring the proposal before the next cabinet meeting. “We must clear the fog surrounding the worst security-related corruption scandal in the country’s history. We shall not rest until the commission is formed,” reads a response by the movement.
In July Gantz and Sa'ar announced that they had agreed to have their ministries begin joint work to examine Gantz’s proposal to form the commission of inquiry. Their joint announcement noted that Mendelblit would be part of the process due to the criminal proceedings ongoing in the affair.
Gantz announced the formation of a government commission to examine the submarines and naval vessels affair, headed by former judge Amnon Shtrasnov. Last November, Mendelblit delayed the convening of the commission, claiming that its activities might jeopardize the criminal proceedings against some of those involved in the affair.
After he clarified that the commission would not be able to approach the suspects in the affair or deal with its criminal aspects, all its members resigned. Unlike the government commission, whose powers were limited, a state commission of inquiry can subpoena witnesses and compel state authorities and civilians to hand over material that could aid its investigation.
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Last June Gantz announced that he would promote the creation of the commission. The announcement drew sharp criticism from Sa'ar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The two men told Gantz that they did not rule out creating the commission at a later date, but would not agree to it so soon after the formation of the coalition since their priority was to first appoint a state commission of inquiry into the Mount Meron disaster in which 45 people were killed in a stampede in May.
In Sunday’s remarks on the commission of inquiry, Sa'ar noted that Attorney General Mendelblit had participated in the staff work on this issue.