Israel's Top Court Denies Petitions to Probe Netanyahu in Submarine Affair

High Court won't order the creation of a commission of inquiry into a government purchase of naval vessels from Germany

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after visit inside a submarine, Haifa, 2016.
Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after visit inside a submarine, Haifa, 2016.Credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The government isn’t obligated to establish a state commission of inquiry into Israel’s purchase of submarines and missile ships from Germany, nor need the attorney general open a criminal investigation into former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s role in these purchases, the High Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Nevertheless, the ruling criticized how the government decided on the purchases. “The Israel Defense Forces was pushed aside and the National Security Council acted on the prime minister’s orders,” it said.

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“Even though we rejected the petitions and all the relief they sought, there’s no denying that a long list of questions about the decision-making process on the naval vessels still hovers over it like a heavy darkness,” Justice Isaac Amit wrote, with justices Noam Sohlberg and Neal Hendel concurring.

“In our ruling, we stressed that these things ought to be investigated in a way that won’t undermine the criminal proceedings taking place in Case 3000 or the state’s security interests,” he added, using the police’s name for the case of suspected corruption in the vessels’ purchase. “We are hopeful that this will occur, and until then, we leave the issue to the public’s judgment.”

As for suspicions related to Netanyahu’s huge profits from the purchase of stock in an American company owned by his cousin that was later acquired by the vessels’ German manufacturer, Amit said this was “not one of the rare, exceptional cases that justify intervening in the attorney general’s decision not to open a criminal investigation.”

The ruling comes just a day after the court demanded to know why a special government permits committee, the attorney general and the state comptroller didn’t order Netanyahu to return money received from his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich for his own and his wife’s legal defense. It hasn’t yet delivered a final ruling on that issue.

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