Israel’s submarine-ship deal, which threatened to draw Netanyahu into case, appears aboveboard

New documents purportedly show that the alleged corruption surrounding Israel’s purchase of German warships does not exist.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Newly discovered documents regarding Israel’s purchase of naval vessels that were part of a mega-defense deal with a German company and which has been the target of a long-running Israeli corruption investigation show that the transaction was above-board, Channel 20 reported Sunday.

The new evidence deals with four missile corvettes that the ThyssenKrupp AG company was contracted to build, which would be mainly used to defend Israel’s natural gas platforms in the Mediterranean Sea.

Called Case 3000, seven people who either close to either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or former defense officials have been charged with bribery and other offenses in an alleged scheme to get the contract for ThyssenKrupp, for the ships as well as Dolphin-class submarines.

One of the main questions revolved around the supposed pressure from the prime minister’s office to unnecessarily enlarge the size of the requested ships, making ThyssenKrupp’s advantage over South Korean and other rivals clear.

Another issue involved the cancellation of an international tender for the ships’ construction, as such a competition traditionally lowers the price considerably.

The report disclosed that the Israeli Navy had begun its research under the assumption that it would need small vessels, around 1,200 tons. But even then, when it sent technical specifications to South Korea, the documents, revealed on Channel 20 for the first time said that the “full load displacement” had to be 1,000-1,800 tons.

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Subsequent staff work then revealed that small vessels would not satisfy the country’s defense needs. This impression was decidedly reinforced following the discovery of the gas fields off Israel’s shores, leading the professionals to decide that the bigger, more heavily armed ships in which ThyssenKrupp specialized would be needed to protect Israel’s exclusive economic zone.

No outside pressure was needed, said the report, for the Navy commander to recommend buying corvettes in the heavier 2,000 ton range, which he did already in 2013.

Regarding the canceled international tender, the report said that another way of lowering the price was a G2G (government to government) deal, and Germany had agreed to fund enough of the costs to make the deal better than any private company could match. Then, without prior warning, Germany went back on its agreement in May 2014, a fact that was publicly reported at the time.

Having no choice, Israel announced the public bidding process in January 2014 – for the larger ships, the report noted. In the months that followed, no credible bid was submitted, said the report. But various parties kept talking to the Germans, who returned to the original funding agreement in August, leading the Defense Ministry to freeze the tender on the Navy’s request.

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The report concluded that the defense procurement was completed in an honest process. This backs up the result of a federal investigation on the German end, which was completed in January. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bochum, which led the inquiry, closed its corruption investigations, stating to website t-online, “There is no sufficient suspicion of criminal offenses against specific domestic persons.”

In Israel, the case’s proponents, such as the Movement for Quality Government, call it “the biggest corruption scandal in Israel’s history.” Many believe that the prime minister was either involved in pressure tactics to make the German purchase or didn’t know about it but should have known. At the very least, they say, he faced a conflict of interest because the deal involved his relatives and friends.

Miki Ganor, Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin, was ThyssenKrupp’s agent in Israel between 2009 and 2017. He turned state’s witness in July 2017 and admitted that he had bribed senior officials and Netanyahu confidants in order to get the contract for his bosses.

However, in March 2019 Ganor recanted parts of his confession, denying that he had bribed anyone. The case is still going to go to court, as an official in the state prosecution’s office said that Ganor’s original testimony had been “corroborated by external evidence.”

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Although investigators questioned Netanyahu about the circumstances of the deal, they did not find evidence of any misdeeds on his part and he was never indicted in the case.