An Israeli government committee will probe the purchase of submarines and corvettes from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp ordered by Prime Minister Netanyahu during his previous term.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced decision to form the committee, to be led by retired judge Amnon Straschnov, to investigate Netanyahu’s role in the so-called submarine affair, also known as Case 3000. The panel will also be tasked with exploring the role of the National Security Agency and the Defense Ministry.
The scandal revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase from Thyssenkrupp. Netanyahu authorized the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, without consulting or notifying the Defense Ministry or the Israel Defense Force (IDF). He reportedly gave the go-ahead in exchange for a discount of half a billion shekels ($142 million) on the purchase of Israel’s sixth submarine from the German firm.
Although Germany does not require Israeli permission to sell its ships to other countries, it has traditionally refrained from doing so to give Israel dominance in the region.
Gantz’s move could inflame tensions with Netanyahu and imperil the already dysfunctional unity government. In a statement, the minister noted that he had reached the decision after holding numerous consultations with former senior members of the legal and security establishment.
Several of Netanyahu’s close associates already face charges in the case. David Shimron, his personal lawyer and second cousin, was originally suspected of mediating a bribery deal in the submarine case, but that charge was dropped by police and he is instead charged with money laundering. Avriel Bar-Yosef, Netanyahu’s one-time pick for national security adviser, faces charges of requesting a bribe, taking a bribe, fraud and breach of trust, The Times of Israel reported Monday.
Other prominent suspects in the case include Miki Ganor, Thyssenkrupp’s representative in Israel, who is being charged with bribery, money laundering, and tax offenses; Eliezer Marom, a former head of the Israeli Navy, who faces charges of bribery, money laundering and tax offenses; and David Sharan, a former aide to Netanyahu and to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was charged with bribery, breach of trust and money laundering.
In October, the state prosecution told the High Court of Justice that it believes there is no justification to open a criminal probe into Netanyahu over the matter.