The Israeli Public’s Right to Know

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Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pauses during a joint statement with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, November 19, 2020.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Government corruption hurts everyone, and the battle against it must be a joint effort by all political camps. That is why Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz did well in establishing a government committee of inquiry to investigate the purchase of submarines and patrol boats from Germany.

The public has the right to know the truth about the “submarine affair,” which has been described by former prime ministers, defense ministers and senior defense officials as “the most serious defense corruption case in the history of Israel.”

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The Kahol Lavan chairman had no mandate to decide on his own to give up on investigating this affair, which he had promised voters he would do. That was a mistake in judgment, much like the decision to join a coalition government led by a criminal defendant.

In retrospect, hesitating wasn’t helping him politically; Gantz’s power gradually waned with every passing day of this terrible government. It’s good that he recovered, even if the move turns out to be the end of this government, as well as his political career. The exposure of corruption or its concealment must not be used as a weapon in political battles.

In the four years that have passed since Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit declared that there were no criminal suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the submarines affair, several disclosures came to light that required the opening of a criminal investigation, not to mention an inquiry commission.

Netanyahu’s stock sale, for example, raised the possibility that his cousin Nathan Milikowsky had business ties with ThyssenKrupp, which makes the submarines that Israel bought.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Dan Harel, the Defense Ministry director general at the time, testified recently that Netanyahu aides and associates tried to tailor a tender for the boats and that the prime minister himself pressed for unnecessary additions to the purchase,

The committee can examine whether there is a connection between the disclosures and the fact that Netanyahu pushed to expand the deal with ThyssenKrupp, even though the defense establishment had decided that the Israel Defense Forces didn’t need more than five submarines. No less important: The panel can examine why Israel withdrew its opposition to the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt, behind the back of the defense establishment.

Despite its limitations, there is value and importance to an independent inquiry committee headed by a retired judge, along with a former navy commander and a purchasing manager in government ministries. Given the increasing number of questions, Israelis are entitled to get an inside look at the state’s defense procurement process, which they are paying for. Only exposing the truth can remove the cloud of corruption that is hovering – in this affair as well – over the criminally charged prime minister.

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

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