Editorial

Hold a State Commission of Inquiry Into Israel's Submarine Affair

The only way to restore public trust is to examine every aspect of the acquisition process and Israel’s tacit approval of the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt

Illustration.
Amos Biderman

With the publication of the police conclusions in the “submarines affair” (Case 3000), including recommendations to charge the six main suspects, among them confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with fraud, bribery and breach of trust, investigators admitted that “jaws dropped” in the face of statements by state witness Miki Ganor. The picture now laid out before the public is indeed jaw-dropping. This is one of the most serious corruption cases in Israel’s history.

The accomplices to this alleged act of organized crime include very senior office holders, advisers and close associates of Netanyahu: a former commander of Israel’s navy; two brigadiers general, one of whom had been nominated national security adviser; a former chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office who previously held the post in the Finance Ministry; and Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, who is also the prime minister’s cousin and envoy.

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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit called the case “difficult and serious.” It remains to be seen whether the suspects will be indicted. But that would not suffice. This impressive gang of suspects did not operate in the dark alleys of Sicily. The crime scene was the offices of the defense establishment and the corridors of military and political power.

The investigation exposed not only the corruption of the individuals involved, but also the impotence of the entire system, the dysfunction of the mechanisms of oversight, supervision and enforcement. Public confidence in these systems has been seriously undermined, and there is no guarantee that such corruption is not routine in defense contracts. A situation in which the public loses its confidence that only considerations of state security and its genuine needs play a role in such deals is intolerable.

The only way to restore the public trust is by appointing a government commission of inquiry to examine the acquisition process for the submarines and missile boats, from beginning to end. The panel must also investigate the reason Israel retracted its opposition to Germany’s sale of advanced submarines to Egypt, and particularly how this move was made while bypassing then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

What were the considerations that led the navy to change its recommendations regarding the patrol boats? Was this connected to natural gas deals in which some of the suspects were involved? What were the underlying considerations for reassigning the routine maintenance of these boats from the navy shipyard to a competing shipyard?

Only an independent investigation that examines the chain of decision-making in all its aspects, including the prime minister’s involvement, can restore public trust.

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