New allegations against Israel’s prime minister: submarines could sink Bibi

Israel has bought German submarines from Thyssenkrupp. The deal went to court – now Prime Minister Netanyahu could also be investigated.

In the submarine for a demonstration against Prime Minister Netanyahu, Tel Aviv on October 14th Photo: Oded Balilty / ap

JERUSALEM taz | “We are putting pressure on an investigation into the submarine affair,” says Yossi Zamir and points to his T-shirt: “Investigation now!” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is surrounded by hundreds of cars, many of which have a self-made submarine dummy on the roof. The convoy set off in northern Israel on Wednesday morning; in the evening he was to arrive at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

This must decide whether to initiate an investigation against Netanyahu in the so-called submarine affair. The case first came to light in 2016 through a report by investigative journalist Raviv Drucker. It is about the purchase of three nuclear weapons-capable submarines for 1.5 billion euros and rocket ships for 430 million euros from the German weapons manufacturer Thyssenkrupp. To make the business possible, bribes should have flowed.

Several people close to Netanyahu have already been charged with bribery, fraud and money laundering, including Netanyahu’s lawyer and cousin David Shimron and ex-Thyssenkrupp representative in Israel, Miki Ganor. Netanyahu himself, who is also on trial in three corruption cases, has not yet been investigated in this case. The court could change this now.

The car convoy was organized by Roi Peleg. The former officer has little to do with the image of an anarchist that Netanyahu paints of the demonstrators who have been demanding his resignation for months. “The submarine affair,” says Peleg, “is arguably the largest arms corruption scandal in the history of Israel.” Like so many, Peleg suspects that Netanyahu himself is involved.

Military staff considered the submarines superfluous

They see indications, for example, in the fact that the submarines were bought even though the Ministry of Defense, military staff and the Navy agreed that Israel did not need any further submarines for defense. In addition, the purchase price was extremely high. According to media reports, however, Netanyahu pushed for the deal and replaced the then defense minister, who was against the purchase, with Avigdor Lieberman. In 2016, the government approved the purchase.

Ganor, the representative of Thyssenkrupp who is said to have initiated the deal, is also said to have brought his legal advisor Shimron with him to the negotiations, who is said to have received a high commission. The explosive thing about it is the family relationship between Shimron and Netanyahu and that Shimron was also Netanyahu’s lawyer.

Investigations could also get Netanyahu into trouble over another cousin, Nathan Milikowsky. Netanyahu held shares in his company Sea Drift (later GrafTech). Explosively, the company had supplied Thyssenkrupp with steel, which may have been a serious conflict of interest for Netanyahu.

Netanyahu could have made the equivalent of several million euros with the deal and put it in his own pocket, according to Blue-White boss Benny Gantz. In the past election campaigns, this suspicion was central to Gantz’s former opposition alliance. Now, however, Blue-White is in a coalition with Netanyahu, and the Knesset voted against the establishment of a committee of inquiry in August. Blau-Weiß abstained from voting.

By Thursday, the attorney general, the prime minister’s office, the defense ministry and the police have to tell the Supreme Court whether they approve of an investigation. Then the court will decide whether to initiate an investigation. Time is of the essence: In November it will be ten years since Netanyahu sold his GrafTech shares – after that no further investigation can be initiated in this case.