Is sub­marines case clos­ing in on PM?

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Did the in­tense ques­tion­ing this week of David Shim­ron and Isaac Mol­cho, top ad­vis­ers to the prime min­is­ter, bring the sub­marines af­fair closer to the premier’s door?

And with Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu be­ing ques­tioned Thurs­day about Case 1000, the “gifts af­fair,” and Case 2000, the “Is­rael Hayom” af­fair – for the first time be­ing con­fronted with new tes­ti­mony from for­mer top aide and state’s wit­ness Ari Harow and oth­ers – is the end in sight on those two cases?

The short an­swer to the first ques­tion is: maybe, but not yet.

The short an­swer to the sec­ond ques­tion is: con­fronting Ne­tanyahu with Harow’s tes­ti­mony is a crit­i­cal phase – the be­gin­ning of the end of the probe – but months could still pass be­fore the po­lice make a rec­om­men­da­tion and quite a while be­fore At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit de­cides.

Break­ing down th­ese an­swers is more com­plex.

First, re­gard­ing Shim­ron and Mol­cho, who have acted as de facto for­eign min­is­ters and key do­mes­tic ne­go­tia­tors on Ne­tanyahu’s be­half on cru­cial is­sues – and are also law part­ners and broth­ers-in-law – what are the al­le­ga­tions against them?

Case 3000, the sub­marines af­fair, re­volves around the pur­chase of sub­marines from the Ger­man com­pany ThyssenKrupp with Is­raeli ne­go­tia­tor Miki Ganor, now the state’s key wit­ness in that case, and sev­eral other top na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials be­ing ac­cused of try­ing to skim money off the top.

Ac­cord­ing to leaked re­ports, the al­le­ga­tions against Shim­ron are that he worked for Ganor and il­le­gally lob­bied de­fense of­fi­cials on be­half of ThyssenKrupp for a €1.5 bil­lion sub­ma­rine sale to Is­rael.

For­mer de­fense min­is­ter Moshe Ya’alon and oth­ers have said th­ese deals were very ex­pen­sive and un­nec­es­sary. Ne­tanyahu has re­torted that he wanted the deals locked in be­fore a pos­si­ble change of power in Ger­many.

While Shim­ron’s as­so­ci­ates em­pha­size he was only paid a stan­dard fee and say he did not en­gage in any­thing il­le­gal, Ganor has said that in some sce­nar­ios Shim­ron could have been paid a more sub­stan­tial sum, and that he used his close­ness to Ne­tanyahu for per­sonal ben­e­fit.

The new­est al­le­ga­tions are against Mol­cho, with leaked re­ports in­di­cat­ing that Ganor said Mol­cho met with him and of­fered to help get the deals ap­proved il­le­gally by wield­ing his close­ness to Ne­tanyahu. Mol­cho ad­mit­ted that he met with Ganor, but said he told Ganor that he only had a strong in­flu­ence on US and Pales­tinian is­sues, not on Euro­pean ones.

An­other point of de­bate is whether Mol­cho knew about what Shim­ron was do­ing in the case. Mol­cho was sup­posed to be “walled off” from Shim­ron and their law firm’s ac­tions when­ever he was work­ing on is­sues of state.

If he knew de­tails about what Shim­ron was do­ing on Ganor’s be­half as part of their law firm, be­yond that Shim­ron rep­re­sented Ganor, then he would have vi­o­lated his con­flict of in­ter­est agree­ment al­low­ing him to work for the state.

So far there are no al­le­ga­tions of Mol­cho get­ting il­le­gal funds for his work. But the more he is con­nected with try­ing to help Shim­ron in work that might be il­le­gal, the

less that for­mal­ity mat­ters.

Even with all of this, Ne­tanyahu is still not a sus­pect in the case.

Re­ports were con­tra­dic­tory about whether po­lice would ques­tion him about the sub­marines af­fair on Thurs­day as a non-sus­pect wit­ness or whether they would stick to cases 1000 (“gifts”) and 2000 (“Is­rael Hayom”).

Can he con­tinue to re­main a non-sus­pect when so many of his close ad­vis­ers are get­ting deeper and deeper into the scan­dal? Is be­ing ig­no­rant of their ac­tiv­i­ties still plau­si­ble?

The way that At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Man­del­blit has run the case, Ne­tanyahu will not be­come a sus­pect un­less a doc­u­ment or wit­ness di­rectly point a fin­ger at him. Ganor has taken down around a dozen top na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, but has not yet gone after Ne­tanyahu.

This means that if the prime min­is­ter was in­volved in any­thing il­le­gal, for which there is no con­crete ev­i­dence, the state would need to get Shim­ron or Mol­cho to turn against him to save them­selves – a tall or­der, though maybe not im­pos­si­ble after watch­ing Harow take such a turn.

This brings us to Ne­tanyahu’s most cur­rent and se­ri­ous prob­lem – Case 1000, the gifts af­fair. Sources fa­mil­iar with the case have said that Harow did not give the state a knock­out in­crim­i­na­tion against the prime min­is­ter, but he did fill in de­tails that will make it eas­ier for po­lice to try to catch Ne­tanyahu re­gard­ing any in­ac­cu­ra­cies from his first round of ques­tion­ing.

That is what makes Thurs­day’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion of the prime min­is­ter, though the fifth one, so cru­cial.

Ne­tanyahu’s “there will be noth­ing be­cause there is noth­ing” mantra has now been pressed into hav­ing to ex­plain why he tried to help busi­ness­man Arnon Milchan get a US visa and why the prime min­is­ter tried to get the mogul a much higher of­fer for his shares as a par­tial owner of Chan­nel 10.

He has said that Milchan’s visa got held up be­cause of me­dia re­ports at­tack­ing the busi­ness­man for help­ing with Is­raeli na­tional se­cu­rity and that the prime min­is­ter tried to help in­crease the Chan­nel 10 pur­chase price to get for­eign in­vest­ment into Is­rael’s econ­omy.

But even if Ne­tanyahu has an al­ter­na­tive nar­ra­tive, as soon as a pos­si­ble quid pro quo is in the pic­ture, there is more pres­sure on Man­del­blit to in­dict and let the courts work out what hap­pened.

In Case 2000, the new de­tails from Harow also re­port­edly led to Is­rael Hayom owner Shel­don Adel­son con­firm­ing that Ne­tanyahu dis­cussed with him the pos­si­bil­ity of can­cel­ing the news­pa­per’s week­end edi­tion.

This could prove that the prime min­is­ter was try­ing to seal the deal he made with Ye­diot Aharonot owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes.

Ne­tanyahu has not fully coun­tered this new de­vel­op­ment yet. Still, in the past, he said that the en­tire in­ter­ac­tion was an elab­o­rate game he was play­ing with Mozes, which never led to any­thing any­way.

While the po­lice may want to move ahead with Case 1000 even as they still work on Case 2000, Man­del­blit has in­di­cated that he will de­cide all of the prime min­is­ter’s cases at once and not piece­meal.

This is ex­actly what he did with the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Sara Ne­tanyahu, with his de­scrip­tion of his de­ci­sions mak­ing it clear that some of them had been reached ear­lier than oth­ers.

The at­tor­ney-gen­eral com­plained in frus­tra­tion last week that he is un­der at­tack from all sides.

That, and his an­nounce­ment that he plans to in­dict Sara Ne­tanyahu, mean that the prime min­is­ter has no ab­so­lute im­mu­nity, even if Man­del­blit is not ex­cited about in­dict­ing him.

It also means that Ne­tanyahu’s an­swers on Thurs­day and in the com­ing round against the new Harow-in­spired de­tails will be de­ci­sive for the fate of his lead­er­ship. •

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