If there is anything in Israeli society that is believed to be holy, it is the IDF. The country is captivated by military stories, and holds its breath when soldiers are hurt, killed or kidnapped. Yediot Aharonot, one of the largest newspapers in the country, still inserts a large portrait of the new IDF chief of staff whenever one takes up the post.
In 1963, David Ben-Gurion stepped down as Israel’s prime minister and gave what became known as his “farewell speech” from the IDF.
“Every Jewish mother should know that she has entrusted the life of her son in the hands of worthy commanders,” Israel’s founding father said.
It would be interesting to see if Ben-Gurion would stand by his statement after the news on Thursday that the police had wrapped up their investigation into Case 3000 – also known as the Submarines Affair – and were recommending indictments against six former top military and government officials.
Among those suspected of bribery and whom the police claim to have sufficient evidence to convict are reserve admiral Eliezer Marom, V.-Adm. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shai Brosh. Marom was the former head of the Navy who allegedly took bribes to assist Miki Ganor in becoming the Israeli representative of the German corporation ThyssenKrupp. Bar-Yosef was the No. 2 official in the National Security Council, and Brosh served as head of naval intelligence. All allegedly took bribes to help advance the sale of German submarines to Israel, bringing into question all of the decisions these three men took as commanders.
What motivated them? What was the real reason they chose one course of action over another? Were they operating to ensure Israel’s security or to pad their pockets?
But that is not it. The police also recommended charging David Shimron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin and close political confidant. Anyone following political developments in recent years knows how dominant Shimron has been. He was something of a consigliere, the man who Netanyahu entrusted with the most sensitive personal issues – from his family’s own legal troubles to the coalition negotiations he led after each election.
The mere suspicion that the submarine sale was tainted with corruption is a stain on the country. Submarines are not just Israel’s most expensive military platform, but also its most strategic one. Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines reportedly serve as the Jewish state’s second-strike capability, meaning that even if the homeland were attacked by nuclear weapons, the subs would still reportedly be able to retaliate with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles of their own.
Netanyahu has not been implicated in this case, but that hasn’t stopped the opposition from calling for his resignation.
“Stealing money from the defense establishment is a betrayal of IDF soldiers,” Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay said. “With this money we could have bought armored personnel carriers instead of the old ones that our soldiers were forced to use during the last Gaza war four years ago. If the prime minister knew what his associates were involved in, he should resign. If he didn’t know, he should resign because he is not fit to lead the defense establishment.”
We disagree with Gabbay. As long as Netanyahu has not been accused of a crime, there is no immediate reason for him to resign. Nevertheless, he does need to do some house cleaning and look into how it was possible that some of the closest people to him – Bar-Yosef was his candidate to become his national security adviser – orchestrated one of the most extensive corruption cases in the history of the Israeli defense establishment.
It is too early to tell what damage this will cause Israel overseas. What will happen, for example, the next time Israel negotiates a multi-billion-dollar deal with the Indians or some South American country? How will Israel’s international partners know that they can trust their Israeli defense counterparts?
Steps need to be taken now to ensure that similar cases don’t happen in the future. Now is the time to review protocols and tighten restrictions to prevent future corruption within the IDF and the Defense Ministry.