In November 2016, just about two weeks after the case regarding Israel’s purchase of German submarines was made public, an unusual announcement was issued by the office of the attorney general. Avichai Mendelblit declared that he had not found any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing in the case. He was proven wrong. The submarine affair could be one of the worst cases of corruption in the country’s history. It centers around two transactions involving Israel and the German firm ThyssenKrupp for the purchase by Israel for about 2 million euros ($2.3 million) of submarines and missile boats. Strategic and sensitive security decisions relating to the country’s very existence were compromised.
In addition, when the criminal investigation into the matter, dubbed Case 3000, was opened in February 2017, the Justice Ministry was at pains to make it immediately clear that “the prime minister is not among the suspects in the affair,” even prior to the questioning of a number of Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates, including David Shimron, David Sharan, Eliezer Zandberg, Isaac Molho and Avriel Bar-Yosef. Although at the moment it is not known how the news of a change in the testimony of state’s witness Michael Ganor will affect the case, other than with respect to Molho, there was sufficient evidence to have them face criminal charges.
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In March 2017, it was reported that Netanyahu’s cousin Nathan Milikowsky had a business relationship with ThyssenKrupp. Following the report, Netanyahu said he had not been aware of Milikowsky’s business dealings. Recently the permits committee at the state comptroller’s office revealed that Netanyahu had not told the truth.
The prime minister and Milikowsky had not only talked about business. They had been partners in a steel plant that was sold to GrafTech International, a supplier of ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu had bought the shares when he was Knesset opposition leader. It turns out that Netanyahu sold his shares at a handsome profit of 16 million shekels ($4.4 million) in November 2010, as part of a merger of the plant into the company’s business, while he was prime minister.
The newly revealed facts suggest a purported business connection between the prime minister and ThyssenKrupp, at least while deliberations were under way on the purchase of the sixth submarine from ThyssenKrupp, and possibly as late as the end of 2015 – the peak period of events relating to the submarine case. That’s because Milikowsky continued to hold shares in the company until August of that year.
In addition, on Monday it was reported that Amos Gilad, the former head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security division, testified to the police that Netanyahu was the one who gave Germany approval to sell advanced submarines to Egypt, contrary to the prime minister’s past claims that Germany never sought his approval.
The change in state’s witness Ganor’s testimony is expected to result in the reopening of Case 3000. The reopening of the case also requires an investigation of Netanyahu and the new reports concerning the stock transactions. This dark cloud must not be allowed to hover over this serious case in which the security interests of Israeli citizens were compromised for financial greed.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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