Eleven months ago, Israel’s State Comptroller published a severe report on the conduct of a company called The Fifth Dimension, which was managed by today’s Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz until the day it was shut down. The focus of the report was a deal the company had with the police, which at the time was headed by Commissioner Roni Alsheikh.
On Wednesday night, the Israeli media reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had decided to open an investigation into the matter, but won’t announce it before Election Day, March 2.
Of course, he announced he won’t announce it just 12 days before the election, providing the Likud with some fodder. But the indictment against Netanyahu was issued five weeks before the election, sufficient time for the PM’s enemies to maximize the electoral damage.
Then judiciary officials explained, that in fact, in the case of The Fifth Dimension, the decision to investigate with prosecution in mind was made about 4 weeks before the election, which didn’t leave sufficient time to develop the case. In reality, this is information that awaited the Attorney General’s decision for nine months.
The Likud was enraged, as was to be expected, and responded: “Why are they waiting to examine The Fifth Dimension until after the election, when in the case of the prime minister, they ran with the indictments before the election?”
Netanyahu quipped: “This is a sad evening for the State of Israel,” a derisive reference to what Gantz said about the PM’s indictment. Say what you will about Bibi, but he can stick the short knife as good as anyone.
Gantz headed the company and made his living from it for about three years. The company has since gone bankrupt and shut down. Its contract with the police was supposed to reach 50 million shekel ($14.6 million). The product, designed to profile suspicious individual as a means of preventing terrorism, was never tested, and yet the company received millions from the state coffers.
The State Comptroller’s report criticized the contract—4 million shekel going on 50—that was signed between the company and the police, or, in more concrete terms, between Gantz and Alsheikh. According to Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report, the contract was signed with a puzzling exemption from a public tender, based on a misrepresentation by the company, according to which it already had existing contracts for the same product. It didn’t.
According to the comptroller’s report, about two months after the Gantz-Alsheikh meeting, the Tender Committee approved 4 million shekel for the pilot as an “operational exemption” from a public tender.
They had a rationale, too: “This purchase is of operational equipment for the police, and conducting a tender for it may impair Israeli police operations or practices, or may otherwise impair police operational activity.”
This is so precious, one expects heads to roll over it. None of the Netanyahu indictments bring together this clearly the accused and the ill-gotten money. I, for one, have no doubt the Likud will use this well in rubbing Gantz’s face in it. This one has corruption written all over it, and it’s the corruption of the insiders: the chief of police with the former IDF chief of staff.
The police office committee approved the decision to pay for Gantz’s pilot without calling for competing bids in 2017. Right off the bat, to get the pilot going, the police purchased Gantz’s hardware for 1.5 million shekel. And then, according to the comptroller, “in the process of acquiring a 50 million shekel technology system, the police chose not to consult the Treasury’s Exemptions Committee, the Accountant General, the purchasing administration entities in the Finance Ministry, or the Ministry of Internal Security, and included none of the above in the procurement process – until much later.”
“The police decision to act this way did not contribute to the effective and purposeful promotion of addressing the technological need of the police.”
What an elegant understatement, what a merciful way of saying, you nincompoops broke every rule in the book, wasted millions, and got nothing to show for it.
The indictments will likely be on the criminal offense of accepting goods or services in a fraudulent way. There’s another angle, though: the prosecution will look into the fact that Gantz’s company employed former senior police officers. How much mutual hand washing was involved?
Benny Gantz was asked about the affair in a weekend interview, and said there was no exemption from a tender because there was no tender (Come on Bibi, you can weave gold with this one).
“I have no problem with an inquiry into the issue of The Fifth Dimension,” Gantz said. “This whole spin is a lie from the first word to the last. Not only is it a total lie, it’s a lie without any basis. I’m an honest man, I don’t have three indictments against me, completely clean. Netanyahu is being charged with the most serious accusations. Let him first clear himself of those and then we will see what to do.”
Were you convinced?