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Probe Netanyahu’s Involvement in the Submarine Affair

Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in the Haifa port, January 12, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in the Haifa port, January 12, 2016.Credit: BAZ RATNER / REUTERS
Haaretz Editorial

Maj. Gen. (res.) Dan Harel has submitted a signed affidavit to a court, testifying that during his term as director general of the Defense Ministry he was subjected to intense pressure so as not to invite bids for acquiring naval vessels.

Haaretz Podcast: Could a Trump triumph be Netanyahu's get out of jail free card?Credit: Haaretz

According to the affidavit, uncovered a few days ago by Guy Peleg of Channel 12 News, a bidding process would have sought an optimal price for the planned acquisitions, while the pressure on Harel was designed to ensure that the deal went to German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems without a bidding process.

According to Harel, if he acceded to this demand he would have harmed the public interest. And yet, pressure was piled on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s people and his military secretary, as well as by then-National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and his deputy, Avriel Bar-Yosef.

Harel said pressure was also put on him by Netanyahu’s attorney and cousin, David Shimron, who was an associate of ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel, Michael Ganor. The last three have been indicted, subject to a hearing, in the so-called submarine affair, the police’s Case 3000.

Harel testified that he was forced to publish the call for bids behind the backs of the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Council. He was then told by Cohen, allegedly at the behest of Netanyahu, to cancel the bidding process. Harel also stated that Netanyahu pressured him to try to acquire a seventh submarine for Israel, contrary to the position of the Defense Ministry.

Harel’s affidavit is attached to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to the High Court of Justice, asking to reverse a decision by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit not to investigate Netanyahu in this affair. The petition calls for the establishment of a commission of inquiry in this matter. The movement says it has even more dramatic affidavits than the one submitted by Harel.

Four years ago, Mendelblit made a hasty statement indicating that there were no suspicions of criminality in the submarine affair. Six months later, then-Attorney General Shai Nitzan, apparently with Mendelblit’s approval, rushed to clear Netanyahu of any involvement.

Protesters carry a sculpture of Netanyahu coming out of a submarine at the protest in Jerusalem, August 1, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

But since then, new information has surfaced to challenge these statements. The issue of shares owned by Netanyahu in the Texas-based company Seadrift Coke raised the possibility that his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky, maintained business relations with ThyssenKrupp. Milikowsky took part in the buying and selling of these shares, and Netanyahu recorded a handsome profit.

Also, Netanyahu claimed that he informed Mendelblit of the circumstances in the selling of German submarines to Egypt, but Mendelblit denied this. And now the Defense Ministry’s director general at the time has testified about an attempt to cook up a bid by Netanyahu’s associates and people working for him, as well as about pressure by the prime minister himself to needlessly expand the number of submarines acquired by the navy.

These revelations make Mendelblit’s earlier decision not to summon Netanyahu for questioning extremely unreasonable, necessitating the reopening of a criminal investigation in this affair.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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