Israeli Attorney General: Unclear Whether Crime Was Committed in Submarine Affair

Avichai Mendelblit says the suspicions against Netanyahu regarding the controversial purchase of subs from Germany have yet to cross the 'reasonable' threshold.

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
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Avichai Mendelblit (right) consults with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting, September 2015.
Avichai Mendelblit (right) consults with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting, September 2015.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg (Pool)
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit commented on Thursday on his decision to open an inquiry against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the controversial Israel Navy purchase of submarines from Germany, saying that the information investigators have seen so far does not show a reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed.

“[Wednesday] evening, I began an inquiry into the matter of the purchase of the naval vessels, coming about a week after we received preliminary information on the subject,” Mendelblit said, speaking at a Haifa Bar Association conference. “The decision was taken due to information received [Wednesday] afternoon by [Israel Police] Maj. Gen. Meni Itzhaki that changed the evidentiary foundation that I had before me in a way that justified looking into the claims in the form of a criminal inquiry. The strength of the suspicions before us have still not crossed the threshold of reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime.”

Mendelblit told his audience that in the absence of a reasonable suspicion of a crime, the opening a formal criminal investigation – rather than the current more informal inquiry – would constitute an abuse of his position as someone responsible for enforcing the law. “In this instance, due to its importance, a criminal inquiry is necessary to look into whether the suspicion is made stronger,” the attorney general said, and on the other hand, if the inquiry refutes the suspicions, the inquiry would end.

“A country that decides to open a [formal criminal] investigation against someone without reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime is a country that doesn’t observe the rule of law,” he said, adding that the failure to open a criminal investigation once a reasonable suspicion has been established also shows disrespect for the law.

“My job is for us not to get into such situations,” Mendelblit said. “Things are sometimes more complicated than people think. There are situations in which after a day or two, the evidentiary picture changes, [when] new data is received. We are constantly looking to see if the threshold has been crossed or not.”

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