Members of a committee appointed to examine the procurement of submarines and warships resigned en masse on Tuesday, because of a dispute with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit over the panel’s jurisdiction.
Panel memberrs informed Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who had appointed them, of their resignation, and Gantz plans to try and make arrangements with Mendelblit in the coming days over the issue, including the possibility of naming a new panel.
In a letter to Gantz, the committee chairman, retired judge Amnon Strashnov, wrote: “When I undertook the chairmanship of the committee it was because I felt that this was a most important national and public mission, and out of an honest and true desire to find out the truth.”
Strashnov said that given the present circumstances, and in light of the limitations placed on the committee’s work, “I fear that there is no real possibility of conducting an effective and trustworthy examination of such an important and critical matter for Israel.”
- Gantz Is Probing Israel’s 'Submarine Affair,' but as Army Chief He Saw Nothing Wrong
- Full Transparency Needed in Probe Into Submarine Affair
- The Real Task of Benny Gantz’s Panel
Gantz appointed the committee a month ago to examine the involvement of the defense establishment and IDF in the purchase of the ships from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The committee was established at the same time that criminal proceedings are underway in what is known as “Case 3000,” concerning Israel’s purchase of the submarines and missile corvettes from the same company.
Mendelblit has argued that it is necessary to ensure that the committee’s work will not interfere with the criminal proceedings. The committee had intended on summoning a large number of witnesses to testify. Haaretz reported last month that Mendelblit instructed Gantz not to convene the committee until he had set limits on its activities, so as not to harm the criminal proceedings against a number of those under suspicion in the submarines case.
Mendelblit sent Gantz a letter at the time that his office was still examining the subjects that the committee could handle, and how this would affect the criminal proceedings, and in light of all these issues, Mendelblit asked Gantz to not have the committee meet until his office had completed this work.
Liat Ben Ari, the lawyer coordinating the criminal corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the State Prosecutor’s Office, has opposed the establishment of the committee. Over the past few weeks, unsuccessful efforts had been made to resolve the disagreements among Gantz and Strashnov and Mendelblit.
It seems the political crisis between Likud and Kahol Lavan, which reached a new peak overnight Tuesday when a bill to delay passing a state budget and dissolving Knesset was voted down, has also contributed to deadlock over the work of the panel. Netanyahu, who is not considered a suspect in the submarine affair, had harshly criticized the establishment of the Strashnov committee and viewed it as a direct political attack by Gantz and his party against him.
A final decision about the committee’s future is expected to be made soon.