Dolphin submarine .
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Plans to expand the Israel Navy’s submarine fleet have run aground amid a criminal investigation into alleged corruption that may have infected our national security. The fact that, so far, seven current and former officials – including the former commandant of the navy – have been held for questioning has cast doubts at the highest level of leadership.
At a time of ongoing threats of destruction by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who governs Iran, it should go without saying that the country needs to know – and quickly – whether one of our most strategic weapons has been compromised. The possibility that the greed of a few corrupt Israelis may have endangered the nation is intolerable.
Tuesday’s detention of former OC Navy V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom – chairman of the Israel Airports Authority since 2015 – raises grave and urgent questions about the nexus of politics and national defense that dwarf other current vital issues.
The fact that those being held for questioning include close confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, including his personal lawyer, raises a cloud of proverbial smoke that demands answers as to just where the fire may be spreading beneath the surface of government.
An alternative fact remains – that although the attorney-general announced in February that Netanyahu is not yet a suspect, his name has been inextricably involved in the unfolding investigation.
Netanyahu’s personal attorney, David Shimron, who is also a distant relative of the premier, was released to house arrest on Monday and questioned by police a second time the next day. He was detained with six other suspects, including with the former deputy head of the National Security Council, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef; Miki Ganor, the Israel representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp; and attorney Ronen Shemer, who works with Ganor.
Shimron is reportedly suspected of “facilitating” the purchase of three additional state-of-the-art submarines in a deal worth some $1.5 billion, despite the objections of then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. The Israel Police announced that the seven suspects were arrested on suspicion of bribery, fraud, money laundering and tax offenses.
Marom, who commanded the navy from 2007 to 2011, is suspected of accepting bribes from Ganor. Channel 2 reported that police intend to question Netanyahu over the so-called Case 3000. One question they are expected to ask the prime minister is why he appointed Bar-Yosef to head the National Security Council in February 2016, despite suspicions of a conflict of interest with German businesses. The fact that Bar-Yosef later withdrew his candidacy for the post did nothing to dispel the doubts.
The same month, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit launched a full-blown criminal investigation into the submarine affair, citing an accumulation of evidence that he said raises suspicions “that some of those involved in the affair committed crimes of public corruption.” Some four months later, Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s National Security Council had approved the purchase of the three Dolphin-class submarines by Israel.
Israel’s newest Dolphin-class submarine is due for delivery next year. The three Dolphin 2-class submarines are expected to cost some NIS 5b. ($1.3b.).
ThyssenKrupp has been accused of bribing officials around the world in aid of the sales of its submarines. According to the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt, ThyssenKrupp has internally probed allegations that employees of a subsidiary had also bribed officials in Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Among the questions raised by this ongoing mess is how will it affect Israel’s other defense ties throughout the world. How will the Pentagon deal with such accusations of corruption under the untested Trump administration? How will the submarine affair affect strategic weapons sales with India and other countries?
It is impossible to ignore the potential impact of Netanyahu’s suspiciously high profile in the affair. This could have far-reaching repercussions on Israel’s political system and then on the entire country.
This situation demands transparency. We urge the police to get to the truth fast.