Doubts about sub­ma­rine deal trig­ger Is­raeli court pe­ti­tion

Ques­tions raised about mid­dle­man and Ne­tanyahu’s lawyer

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­raeli lawyers will pe­ti­tion the Supreme Court yes­ter­day to in­ter­vene over the award­ing of a de­fense con­tract to Ger­many’s ThyssenKrupp amid al­le­ga­tions of a con­flict of in­ter­est in­volv­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s own lawyer. The pe­ti­tion, spon­sored by Erel Mar­galit, a high-tech en­tre­pre­neur and op­po­si­tion mem­ber of Is­rael’s par­lia­ment, ar­gues that there was a lack of trans­parency in how a $2 bil­lion or­der for three sub­marines and four pa­trol ves­sels was awarded to ThyssenKrupp Marine Sys­tems.

The con­cerns fo­cus on the role of Ne­tanyahu’s per­sonal lawyer, David Shim­ron, who is also his cousin. Shim­ron rep­re­sented the in­ter­me­di­ary on the deal, Is­raeli busi­ness­man Miki Ganor, who Is­raeli me­dia say is set to earn $10 mil­lion. Shim­ron has de­nied any im­pro­pri­ety and Ne­tanyahu has said he stands fully be­hind him. The at­tor­ney-gen­eral has or­dered po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate Shim­ron, but Mar­galit says it is too nar­row an in­quiry and a much broader in­ves­ti­ga­tion is re­quired.

“Is­rael needs to buy arms, planes, ships and mis­siles,” Mar­galit, a mem­ber of the main op­po­si­tion cen­tre-left Zion­ist Union party said. “If some­one is play­ing games with that, then it un­der­mines trust and it needs to be in­ves­ti­gated. “The way th­ese deals were han­dled com­pro­mised our abil­ity to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on... I’m talk­ing about a ma­jor di­ver­sion of se­cu­rity arms deals. Th­ese are se­ri­ous is­sues.”

The pe­ti­tion is what is known in Is­rael as a “show cause” or­der. If acted upon, it would in­volve the Supreme Court ask­ing the at­tor­ney-gen­eral to ex­plain why he does not see fit to widen the scope of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The court has is­sued many such or­ders in the past, in­clud­ing a high-pro­file one in 2011 when it asked the gov­ern­ment to ex­plain its se­cu­rity poli­cies to­wards Is­raeli Arabs. As well as the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Shim­ron and Ganor, which ThyssenKrupp has said it is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing, Mar­galit said sev­eral other as­pects of the agree­ment should give the Is­raeli pub­lic cause for con­cern.

‘Checks and bal­ances’

First, for decades Is­rael re­lied on a for­mer bri­gadier gen­eral, dubbed the “Sub­ma­rine King”, to bro­ker or­ders with Ger­many. But in 2009 he was un­ex­pect­edly re­placed by Ganor, who has far less ex­pe­ri­ence. Ganor has not spo­ken about his role. Se­condly, since the deal was fi­nal­ized in Oc­to­ber, it has emerged that Iran’s for­eign in­vest­ment fund is a ma­jor share­holder in ThyssenKrupp, with a 4.5 per­cent stake.

With Is­rael and Iran en­e­mies, Mar­galit said Is­raelis de­served re­as­sur­ances that Tehran is not ben­e­fit­ing from the deal. A fur­ther area of con­cern is that Is­rael’s for­mer de­fense min­is­ter orig­i­nally planned a ten­der for the pa­trol ves­sels, with sev­eral coun­tries in­ter­ested in bid­ding. But in­stead of a ten­der, the $450 mil­lion con­tract was awarded to ThyssenKrupp. The gov­ern­ment has said it fol­lowed all ap­pro­pri­ate pro­ce­dures. “I’ve taken 14 com­pa­nies pub­lic on Nas­daq,” said Mar­galit, who started one of Is­rael’s most suc­cess­ful ven­ture cap­i­tal funds. “There’s a trans­parency in­volved.

“When it comes to th­ese con­tracts, we do not know many of the is­sues... You have to ask your­self if there was proper con­duct. That’s why we need a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” The right-wing Ne­tanyahu, who has been in power for 10 years spread over four terms, has drawn fre­quent le­gal scru­tiny, in­clud­ing over whether he and his wife have used state funds to sup­port what crit­ics say is a lav­ish life­style. There is no in­di­ca­tion the sub­ma­rine af­fair reaches his of­fice di­rectly, but Mar­galit said the pub­lic de­served clar­ity. “We need to make sure the at­tor­ney-gen­eral ex­plains him­self... and that there are checks and bal­ances on a moral and per­sonal level.” —Reuters

NEVATIM AIR BASE, Is­rael: Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu (3rd right) look at one of the first two F-35 stealth fighter jets pur­chased in the United States next to its pi­lot (2nd right), an Is­raeli of­fi­cer, af­ter he landed at the Is­raeli Nevatim Air force base in the Negev desert, near the south­ern city of Beer­sheva. —AFP

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