Benjamin Netanyahu at the conference of Israel ambassadors and heads of missions in Europe in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
After a long public campaign, MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) and former Labor Knesset candidate Eldad Yaniv filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Thursday, demanding the investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his part in the so-called submarines affair.
The petition, signed by 19,083 citizens, also demands clarification of Netanyahu’s connections to French billionaire Arnaud Mimran and the allegations being investigated in probe already under way into the purchase of vessels for the Israel Navy.
On December 13, Margalit had lawyers send a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, demanding that he open an investigation into Netanyahu regarding the acquisition of three Dolphin-2 submarines and four Saar-6 corvettes for the navy.
In late November, Netanyahu was accused on improper behavior with regards to the purchases, since his personal lawyer, David Shimron, worked for the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp, the German company selling the ships, and pushed to buy them over the objections of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Investigators from the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit questioned Netanyahu for more than three hours on Monday night, at his official residence in Jerusalem, and again on Thursday evening. On Monday night, Mandelblit issued a statement confirming that the probe of Netanyahu has become a full-fledged criminal investigation, but would not reveal details of the investigation.
“According to the attorney-general’s statement, we cannot tell what was investigated and what was not,” said Margalit. “We cannot proceed with this ‘preliminary review’ policy. The public was exposed to clear evidence that raises severe suspicions against the prime minister, and it requires an investigation.
“The fact that a preliminary review directly becomes a criminal investigation and the prime minister is immediately summoned to be questioned under caution – without the regular procedure and the phases it should go through – indicates that these reviews should in fact be called investigations. Our prime minister is involved with corrupt connections, and it is hidden from the public,” said Margalit.
Margalit added that public officials should be held to the same standard as any other one else.
“We cannot use the preliminary review as a separate procedure, different than for ordinary citizens. It is impossible that we operate according to an order [by opening a preliminary review] that isn’t a law. What happens is that we immediately open reviews, even if there are clear criminal suspicions,” he said.
The petition asked the court to reply in two weeks, and not in two months as required by law, “because of the urgency of the issue.”