Editorial

Needed: A Commission of Inquiry Into the Submarine Affair

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav submarine, after it arrived in Haifa port, January 12, 2016.
Baz Ratner/Reuters

The corruption involved in the purchase of submarines and ships from the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp makes it among the worst such affairs in Israel’s history. It involves bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering by a criminal network that functioned at the highest levels of Israel’s government and business people between 2009 and 2019 , funnelling government funds from the defense budget into private pockets, by swaying decisions regarding purchases from the German shipbuilder.

Almost all the suspects in this case, known as “Case 3000,” are close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or officials who worked with him in the past. A whole array of indications shows the involvement of Netanyahu himself in some of the affairs, and key questions in the matter remain unanswered – for example, the reason the Germans were given permission to sell advanced submarines to Egypt behind the back of the defense establishment.

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And yet Netanyahu was not questioned in the affair, with the heads of Israel’s law enforcement system, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, at pains to make clear that there was no suspicion at all about Netanyahu in this context.

Nitzan’s decision on Thursday to indict most of those involved in the affair, pending a hearing, could have enabled all the politicians from the right-wing bloc, including Netanyahu himself, to freely criticize the hair-raising accusations in the indictment. But not even the slightest tweet was heard from Netanyahu about the submarine affair. Hard to fathom how the prime minister for more than a decade now, who was also defense minister for part of that time, had nothing to say in the face of the terrible rot that has spread through the holy of holies – strategic defense procurement, the heart of top-secret security, matters of life and death,.

Netanyahu’s silence of course stems from the fact that the suspects are his close associates and confidants. The silence of his political colleagues stems from his silence. If you don’t want to get stung, don’t kick the hornet’s nest. The decision to indict some of those involved pending a hearing – in the case of others no decision has yet been made – marks progress in the process of revealing the truth on the criminal track, but this track cannot reveal the full extent of the rot.

Case 3000 is “suffering” from the fact that it is linked to the rest of the affairs now under investigation involving the prime minister, in the sense that it is easy for the right wing to claim that it is a target of well-orchestrated political persecution against the government. But this is a serious affair, involving billions in taxes that were allegedly wrongly spent. It will accompany the defense establishment for many years to come.

What is called for is a state commission of inquiry to examine the affair in depth, along with other dealings in the defense establishment, to ensure that such corruption never happens again.

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