Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has given the green light for the establishment of a State Commission of Inquiry into the Submarines Affair, and the cabinet is expected to vote on it on Sunday. The decision to establish the committee was reached by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Gantz, who has been pushing the inquiry as one of his Blue&White major campaign issues, welcomed the decision, saying: “The establishment of the commission of inquiry is a necessary step in maintaining Israel’s security. This is part of the national interest, and I thank the prime minister, the foreign minister, the justice minister, and all those who supported submitting the resolution.”
The Submarine Affair, a.k.a. Case 3000, is a criminal investigation conducted by the Lahav 433 unit of the Israel Police starting in February 2017, of a suspicion that government tenders were skewed to enable the purchase of submarines and patrol boats from the German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG, between 2009 and 2017. At the end of the investigation, the police announced that evidence had been gathered to prosecute several detainees on bribery, fraud, money laundering, and other charges.
As part of the investigation, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the police that Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered an additional submarine from ThyssenKrupp without his or the IDF leadership’s knowledge, despite the fact that the security apparatus was vehemently opposed to the purchase.
In March 2019, another angle of the Submarine Affair came to light in the media: Netanyahu’s approval of the sale of ThyssenKrupp submarines to Egypt. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, former head of the defense ministry’s political-security division, told investigators that he had raised questions about the Germans’ decision to sell advanced submarines to Egypt, and German Deputy Chancellor Christoph Ausgen informed him that Prime Minister Netanyahu had approved the sale. In the past, Netanyahu has such allegations, claiming that Germany did not need, nor did it receive, a permit from Israel to sell submarines to Egypt. However, according to Israeli media, due to the special relations between Germany and Israel, the Germans did request the approval, and according to Gilad’s testimony, the approval was given by the prime minister himself. This was done behind their backs and without the knowledge of senior members of the defense establishment, including the chief of staff and the defense minister.
Then, the media discovered an interesting revelation in the response of the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request to receive funding for his legal expenses from two millionaires, one of whom was Netanyahu’s cousin Nathan Milikowsky, CEO of Jordanmill Ventures, which sells steel to its main customer ThyssenKrupp AG. Reportedly, in 2009, Netanyahu held shares in Jordanmill.
In June 2018, then-Prime Minister Netanyahu was reportedly interrogated for six hours regarding, among other issues, the Submarines Affair. His office later issued a statement saying: “The Prime Minister gave open testimony in Case 3000. He elaborated on the range of professional considerations that guided him in making decisions about the submarines and vessels, and their importance to national security. The Prime Minister welcomes the opportunity given to him to clarify the issue in its entirety and put an end once and for all to the false allegations made against him by other politicians.”
On May 10, 2021, the prosecution indicted seven former high-ranking IDF officers and politicians on bribery, breach of trust, money laundering, and other charges. At the same time, the prosecution closed the case against Netanyahu’s close confidant, also his cousin, attorney David Shimron.
It should be noted that this would be the second commission of inquiry investigating Case 3000. Defense Minister Gantz appointed a commission in November 2020, but its members resigned within a month over the restrictions that had been placed on their work by AG Avichai Mandelblit. Mandelblit, who will end his term in office on February 1, is currently involved in the all-out effort to reach a plea deal with Netanyahu on three other cases (Justice Barak Pushing Netanyahu’s Plea Deal that May Oust Him from Politics Until He Turns 80).