Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
“No one gets immunity [from prosecution] and certainly not the prime minister once a case is being investigated,” the High Court of Justice said on Wednesday regarding a series of petitions demanding the attorney- general criminally investigate Benjamin Netanyahu in the “Submarine Affair.”
At the same time, the court said that the Attorney-General’s Office needed to be given sufficient time to investigate the issues.
MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union), who filed one of the petitions, declared a partial victory in that the High Court emphasized that the prime minister was not immune from prosecution.
He also said he had achieved getting the court to criticize the state prosecution for closing the Bibi Tours Affair without an explanation and had achieved getting the prosecution to reveal that shifting authority from the Defense Ministry to the National Security Council in the Submarine Affair was under investigation.
On February 28, Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit announced that a police probe into the Submarine Affair had developed into a full-blown criminal investigation, but that Netanyahu was not a suspect as of now.
Rather, the statement said that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, who allegedly was in a conflict of interest when he lobbied defense officials on behalf of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp for a multibillion- shekel submarine sale, is under investigation.
Questions over the 2014 submarine deal surfaced in November with a Channel 10 report that Shimron worked for the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp and pushed to buy submarines from the firm over the objections of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon has reportedly given testimony in the case. Mandelblit soon opened an initial probe of the allegations.
Other related petitions heard by the High Court on Wednesday related to whether Mandelblit had a conflict of interest in managing the cases since he worked as Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary before taking the attorney- general job.
Deputy Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubinstein said that as a former attorney- general himself, that the accusations against Mandelblit ignored that he operates within a large apparatus of prosecutors and policemen and that his personal views, whatever they are, could not sweep crimes under the rug.
The court did not issue a ruling but appeared ready to reject the challenge to Mandelblit, while potentially being open to press the state to provide more details about Netanyahu and the Submarine Affair if he continues to be declared not a suspect.Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report.