Opinion |

Netanyahu's 'Submarine Affair' Threatens to Sink the Entire Country

There is suspicion of a fundamental, existential conflict of interest between the prime minister and the state, the security and welfare of which are in his hands.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raises the Israeli national flag during a ceremony taken on the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in Haifa port January 12, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raises the Israeli national flag during a ceremony taken on the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in Haifa port January 12, 2016.Credit: Reuters
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

The so-called “submarine affair” is emerging as one of the worst corruption affairs in Israel’s history. The usual accusation leveled by Benjamin Netanyahu and his lackeys that “the left refuses to accept the people’s vote,” won’t do any good this time.

It is not a story that ends with some technical “conflict of interest” centered around a gray lawyer. There is suspicion of a fundamental, existential conflict of interest between the prime minister and the state, the security and welfare of which are in his hands.

>> Submarine scandal: What we know so far

This story won’t be solved by a private lie detector test ordered and paid for by attorney David Shimron, nor with the flattering character evidence given by his client Netanyahu. Those merely raise the level of absurdity. Whoever is currently holding up a police investigation into the affair is assisting the potential disruption of an inquiry and the coordination of testimonies. It is a risk that could very well end their public careers.

In recent years, the Israeli Navy has acquired two advanced German-made submarines, thereby increasing Israel’s submarine fleet to five. The prime minister insisted on buying a sixth submarine, contrary to the opinion of the chief of staff. It was ultimately bought after a stormy argument. Then Netanyahu demanded that the submarine fleet be increased to nine. The explanation that he meant to replace the old submarines came retroactively.

Then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon strongly opposed the additional purchases. The deal was accelerated after Ya’alon was dismissed without explanation. He was replaced by Avigdor Lieberman, whom, only a few days earlier, Netanyahu had called irresponsible and unqualified.

Netanyahu also promoted the purchase of four missile boats to safeguard Israel’s gas rigs from the same German shipyard, at the same time as he and his confidants were steamrollering the deal through. The purchase of both the submarines and the missile boats was ratified by the security cabinet in hastily-convened sessions.

These are billion-dollar deals, normally agreed on between governments. But, for some reason, they required a wheeler-dealer named Miki Ganor, a former navy officer. Ganor made his fortune in real estate deals in Eastern Europe, not in weapons or gas. But in 2011 he was appointed honorary consul of Cyprus in Israel, to advance gas projects.

His swearing-in ceremony was attended by then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, the same Lieberman whose daughter and driver had shell companies inCyprus, into which millions of dollars were deposited.

Shimron is Ganor’s lawyer in Israel. He is also Netanyahu’s lawyer, confidant and relative. Shimron intervened in the approval of the submarine purchase deals and also acted to privatize and place their very expensive maintenance – these are strategic war vessels, loaded with advanced, classified weapon systems – in foreign hands in Haifa Port.

The National Security Council rallied to approve the gas plan in keeping with Netanyahu’s position. Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar Yosef, a qualified mechanical engineer and marine logistics officer during his military service, was Netanyahu’s candidate to head the National Security Council. His appointment was foiled at the last moment and today he is under investigation on suspicion of bribery and conflict of interest in connection with security and gas issues.

Yossi Cohen, the NSC head who provided Netanyahu with a signed opinion asserting Israel’s strategic, vital need for the gas plan, was rapidly appointed Mossad chief.

Roni Alsheikh of the Shin Bet was appointed police commissioner, reportedly with the promise of a future appointment as head of the Shin Bet. The man appointed attorney general and head of the prosecution, is Avichai Mendelblit, the former cabinet secretary.

The latter two are now supposed to oversee, without bias or prejudice, the police investigation into this alarming and gigantic affair. This is how Netanyahu is sinking an entire country.

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