Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday voted to establish a state commission of inquiry into the “submarine affair.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett abstained from the vote and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked voted against the establishment of an investigation. Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin said in the past that he planned to vote against the measure but ultimately voted in favor of it.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who authorized the probe over a year ago, said at the meeting that his motives for launching the probe aren’t political or personal but based on “critical security needs.”
The graft scandal surrounds a possible conflict of interest and bribery involving a $2 billion purchase of naval vessels from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp that implicated some of Netanyahu’s closest associates. The former prime minister was questioned, but not named as a suspect, in the scandal, referred to in Hebrew as “ Case 3000.”
“The processes for defense acquisitions in this government are clean of outside considerations,” Bennett said at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting. “Our sole consideration is the security of Israel.”
Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s health minister and a Cabinet member, said the government investigation “is a critical step in the fight against corruption and is essential for the defense establishment.”
Gantz said on Twitter after the vote that launching the investigation is of “the highest security need, and a clear message that you cannot play with Israel’s defense.”
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak on Sunday called the matter “the most serious corruption scandal in Israel’s history.”
Last week Israel signed an agreement with Germany to purchase three top-of-line submarines from Thyssenkrupp for three billion euros ($3.4 billion) to replace older ships retiring at the end of the decade. The Defense Ministry said they were not part of the state investigation.
Netanyahu’s Likud party responded to the announcement, saying the investigation should look into “how all those who for years opposed buying three more submarines suddenly approved the purchase,” and dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing as “idle political claims.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)