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Deal in Submarine Affair Doesn't Mean Netanyahu Is Going Down

What the decision to let Michael Ganor turn state's witness in the scandal involving the purchase of German naval vessels really means

Amir Oren
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Michael Ganor in Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court, July 21, 2017.
Michael Ganor in Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court, July 21, 2017. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Amir Oren

A photograph of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hangs on the office wall of national fraud squad chief Koresh Bar-Nur. But when an acquaintance of Bar-Nur is a guest in his office, it’s still strange to see a portrait of a possible suspect behind the heads of his investigators.

Bar-Nur doesn’t speak on the record to the Israeli press. He is interviewed a little, in decent English, only at the request of foreign colleagues like Cary Gleicher, the FBI’s attaché in Israel. At Gleicher’s behest, Bar-Nur appeared on the FBI website and praised the cooperation between the two law enforcement agencies. Hovering in the background are four police investigations into Netanyahu.

The national fraud squad’s sister unit – the unit that investigates economic crimes – adorned itself Friday with a state’s witness agreement it made with Michael Ganor. Ganor is spilling the beans on the so-called submarine affair; Ganor will tell all. The fraudster of Thyssenkrupp, the “Thyssencrook,” did the math and came out cheaply, with about seven months’ jail-time.

The head of the economic crimes investigation unit, Moti Levi, won a prize that had eluded Bar-Nur. Ostensibly, because the national fraud squad has not revealed whether over the past few months it has already granted this status to any of the suspects in the Netanyahu cases – or cases touching on those cases, or those involved in them – who can trade information in exchange for lighter sentences. The identity of state’s witnesses and the essence of their testimony – and in most cases the identity alludes to the testimony – are supposed to remain secret until a draft indictment is issued and a summons issued to a hearing. Ganor is an unusual case.

The Ganor deal is being presented as a feather in the prosecution’s cap. But it could turn out to be a featherweight. It is a success for the police and prosecution, but through it they are conceding failure in obtaining independent evidence, at the price of mercy toward the main alleged culprit, because both sides were in trouble and this creates a practicable way out.

The eagerness to cut a deal means that without it there is not enough material. It means the case depends on Ganor’s ability to provide corroborating evidence of criminal acts, as a witness who documented material in notes and recordings; to stand in the witness box, to survive cross-examination and to persuade judges.

The state’s witness agreement is an intriguing document. Take, for example, the Lador-Amedi agreement, signed between then-Jerusalem District Prosecutor Moshe Lador and the contractor Avner Amedi in late September 1999. Amedi was questioned at the national fraud squad on suspicion of bribing Netanyahu and stealing $100,000 worth of gifts. He “expressed his desire, of his own accord, to assist the prosecution in deciphering all the offenses that Netanyahu (and others) had committed in the framework of the case,” and even “revealing to the prosecution two other matters of which the police have no knowledge in the framework of the case” – payments to Prime Minister’s Office Deputy Director Ezra Saidoff and “theft by the Netanyahu family of gifts given to prime ministers – Netanyahu and his predecessors.” Amedi’s agreed-upon sentence, after the charge of bribery was dropped, was six months’ community service.

That cooperation made it possible to surprise Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu, simultaneously and separately, but in the end Lador recommended – contrary to the opinion of then-State Prosecutor Edna Arbel – that the case be closed. Thus, he made it easy for then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to let Netanyahu off with empty condemnations, which also meant a concession to Amedi. Saidoff, against whom Amedi testified, was acquitted but, like the Netanyahus, 18 years on finds himself at legal risk once more.

The lesson is not to be too impressed by the signing of a state’s witness agreement, which when put to the test could prove to be fragile. It seems the evidence against Netanyahu collected by the national fraud squad is more solid.

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