Ariel Kahana & Gideon Allon
Opposition Knesset members lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday after the Israel police said there was sufficient evidence to indict seven suspects, including his lawyer, in a corruption case involving the 2016 procurement of German submarines.
The case, dubbed “Case 3000,” centers on a possible conflict of interest (or multiple ones) surrounding Israel’s decision to procure three submarines and other vessels from German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.
Police believe those involved in the negotiations tainted the bidding process in a way that favored ThyssenKrupp and benefited them personally. The illicit action allegedly involved bribery, fraud, money-laundering and other offenses.
One of the prime suspects in the case is Netanyahu’s attorney and cousin David Shimron. Netanyahu himself was questioned in the case and cleared of any suspicion or wrongdoing.
Netanyahu’s close associates said Thursday that he remains unconvinced that Shimron had committed any crime.
“Netanyahu has worked with Shimron for many years and considers him a law-abiding person,” one associate said. Others said that Netanyahu also doubts that any illicit funds were used to pay for the procurement of the submarines or that the decision-making process was tainted.
A statement by Netanyahu’s Likud Party said, “The left’s attempts to see Netanyahu implicated in this affair have been crushed by reality. We feel sorry for Labor leader Avi Gabbay and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who once again saw their hopes of using false accusations to oust the prime minister dashed.”
Others in the party also stated their support for Netanyahu.
“Nothing will come of it. The left is trying to implicate Netanyahu in corruption cases and has failed time and time again,” said MK Miki Zohar. “The prime minister would have never done anything that is against Israel’s interests.”
Likud ministers who are closely affiliated with the other six suspects told Israel Hayom that they find it hard to believe that any of them took bribes.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that “after many years of working closely with Netanyahu, I am convinced that he wouldn’t do anything to undermine Israel’s security.”
Bennett called for a thorough examination of how procurement deals are negotiated.
“As ministers who serve on the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet and decide on massive procurement matters, we must be certain that we make our decisions based on the merits,” he said.
‘He should have known about it’
Opposition lawmakers took a different view, saying Netanyahu is indirectly responsible.
“The police’s findings make it impossible for Netanyahu to stay in office. His loyalists and closest associates allegedly sold out Israel’s holy of holies [national security interests] on his watch,” said Lapid.
“Netanyahu owes the public an explanation. What else was he not aware of? How come he wasn’t aware of the matter, and why did he sign off on the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt without telling the defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces? If all this happened in Netanyahu’s bureau without his knowledge, he is not fit for office.”
Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said “Netanyahu has created a strong culture of corruption over the years, and those who are tasked with our security should not let his associates use security matters for personal gain.”
Livni said that “regardless of whether or not he knew about it, he should have known about it.”
Gabbay said “stealing funds from the defense establishment is a betrayal of the IDF.”
“We could have used these funds to buy armored personnel carriers, instead of the old ones that were used to enter the Gaza Strip four years ago,” added Gabbay. “If the prime minister didn’t know, he should resign because he is not fit to lead our defense establishment.”
Meretz Party leader Tamar Zandberg said “the question of what and whether Netanyahu knew is not important. If a group of senior officials and his confidants conspired to trade in state security and rake in millions, it is a form of organized crime.”
Meretz MK Esawi Frej said that “either the police and the attorney general believe Israelis are stupid or they are afraid of the earthquake that would ensue if they indict an Israeli prime minister. A deal worth billions to procure submarines does not take place without the knowledge and approval of the prime minister.”