On Sunday, the new government kept its promise and approved the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Mount Meron disaster in April. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, one of the sponsors of the cabinet resolution, stressed that “the commission’s establishment is a moral obligation to the Israeli public.”
Indeed, this is an important step that shows the government is taking seriously its commitment to effect change. There will no longer be no-man’s-lands where Israeli law does not apply and the safety of whose residents the state cannot guarantee.
But this moral debt to the public will not be fully paid with the establishment of the Mount Meron commission; lawlessness has flourished not only in Israel’s Haredi and Arab autonomies, but also in the office of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even though Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit did not see fit to open a criminal investigation against Netanyahu in the so-called submarines case, the public deserves to know the truth about everything related to “the most serious security case in Israel’s history.” Therefore, Gantz was right to decide to submit to the cabinet secretary a proposal to establish a state commission of inquiry into Israeli purchases of submarines and patrol boats.
The public deserves to know why Netanyahu pushed to buy additional submarines from ThyssenKrupp even though the defense establishment determined that five were sufficient. Moreover, why did Netanyahu’s cronies known about the proposal to increase the purchase order, when this was concealed from the defense establishment?
Why did the Prime Minister’s Office rescind its objection to ThyssenKrupp’s sale of advanced submarines to Egypt while concealing that decision from the defense establishment? Why did Israel decide to buy four gunboats – and specifically from ThyssenKrupp – to protect its offshore gas drilling platforms? Why was a proposal made to outsource the submarines’ maintenance to ThyssenKrupp without first consulting the military?
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This isn’t the first time Gantz has tried to launch an inquiry into the submarines affair. In November, he appointed a governmental inquiry committee headed by retired Judge Amnon Straschnov. But Mendelblit ordered that panel to hold off on starting work because he said its mandate would overlap with the criminal investigation. Moreover, Straschnov resigned after less than a month after concluding that the committee’s work would be pointless due to limitations to its authority. Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to attribute the dissolution of this committee to the fact that Netanyahu and his power structure controlled Israel at the time.
“This time, I expect all the cabinet ministers to support establishing the commission,” Gantz said. We can only echo this expectation. The new government must make it clear that the battle against government corruption tops its agenda. There is no better way to send this message than by appointing a state commission of inquiry to investigate this affair – which ought to keep Israelis awake at night – and to disclose its findings to the public.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.