Netanyahu Graft Probe Expedited to Free Up Detectives for Spiraling Submarine Scandal

PM's gift affair to receive top priority so investigation could be wrapped up within a month ■ Submarine case could broaden as key suspect in talks for turning state witness

Netanyahu on board the INS Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in the Haifa port January 12, 2016.
BAZ RATNER /REUTERS

Israel Police will be expediting an investigation into a case in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of receiving improper gifts so detectives will be available to peruse the investigation into possible corruption in a state deal for submarines and other naval vessels.

The investigation into Netanyahu, dubbed Case 1000, deals with improper benefits, primarily gifts from wealthy individuals.

>> EXPLAINED: Is Netanyahu in trouble? The four corruption cases surrounding Israel's prime minister >>

Based on a situational assessment made by the police and state prosecution, it was decided that Case 1000 would be given top priority so the investigation could be wrapped up within a month.

On Monday it emerged that businessman Michael Ganor, who is at the center of the submarine scandal and who brokered the agreement between Israel and the Germany shipyard Thyssenkrupp, is in the process of striking a deal to become a state witness in what is dubbed Case 3000. If an agreement is signed with Ganor, police believe that the scope of the Case 3000 investigation will broaden and require more manpower.

The assessment also addressed Case 2000, in which Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Amnon Mozes are suspected of colluding to rein in Yedioth rival Israel Hayom, a daily newspaper owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It was decided however to focus primarily on Case 1000 at this time.

In the submarines affair, a number of senior officials were placed under house arrest on suspicion of bribery and fraud. The case involves two transactions to enlarge Israel’s navy: one for the purchase of three submarines, the other for the purchase of missile boats to protect Israel’s natural gas platforms at sea.

Sources involved in the case say that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit gave prosecutors a green light to reach a state witness agreement with Ganor. Ganor’s lawyer, Nati Simhoni, resigned due to these contacts. Prosecutors were now trying to examine and verify the partial information Ganor has provided, which they will not be able to use if the deal is not signed.

After receiving this information, police summoned Monday evening former Israel Navy commander Eliezer Marom for urgent questioning, perhaps in an effort to try to verify some of Ganor’s information. Marom is suspected of taking bribes.

Ganor’s detention was extended with his consent until Thursday, when he will be released from house arrest. The arrest of Avriel Bar Yosef, who was the acting head of the National Security Council and played a central role in preparing the opinion concerning the purchase of the submarines, was extended by four days.

Aside from Ganor, Bar Yosef, and Marom, the suspects in the case include David Shimron, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and relative, who represented Ganor when the submarine deal was reached. Another suspect, Ronen Shemer, an attorney in Ganor’s firm, is suspected of shredding documents.