A petition submitted Thursday to the High Court of Justice demanded that reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in shady dealings with a German shipbuilding company and a French felon be fully investigated.
The petition — an initiative of MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) and Eldad Yaniv, a Labor party activist and anti-Netanyahu crusader — calls on the court to instruct Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to be transparent in his probes of Netanyahu, particularly regarding a submarine deal with the German company ThyssenKrupp and in his dealings with the convicted French fraudster Arnaud Mimran.
“Based on the announcement of the attorney general, it is impossible to know which affairs are being investigated and which have been closed,” charged Margalit. “It is impossible to continue with a policy of preliminary probes while the public is exposed to evidence that requires an investigation beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The petitioners claim that theirs is the biggest petition in Israel’s history, and was signed be some 19,000 people. It was submitted as Netanyahu was questioned for the second time under caution by police investigators on Thursday over a separate affair involving gifts from two businesspeople.
Margalit and Yaniv claim that the mandate given to the police by Mandelblit was vague and does not address the two biggest allegations against the prime minister: ThyssenKrupp and money he received from Mimran.
Netanyahu has denied all of the allegations against him, dismissing them as “nothing.”
Margalit and Yaniv launched the petition last month, with a video peppered with pictures of Netanyahu’s ostensibly lavish lifestyle and newspaper headlines detailing various alleged scandals in which he has been named. The two claimed Netanyahu has been using state coffers as “a personal cash box” and “ATM” for himself and his associates, and accused the prime minister of “selling out” Israel’s security and “ripping us off” with the ThyssenKrupp deals in exchange for personal enrichment.
The affair dominated public debate in the country in November, after accusations surfaced that the prime minister may have been swayed by business ties his personal counsel David Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp, which has been contracted to build Israel’s advanced submarines in a deal worth billions. The purchase was opposed by parts of the defense establishment, including the defense minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon.
In June, Netanyahu acknowledged receiving money from Mimran, who was subsequently sentenced to eight years in jail in France over a $315 million scam involving the trade of carbon emissions permits and the taxes on them.
Margalit also criticized “Netanyahu’s wailing in Congress over Iran,” while simultaneously “making deals with them with his other hand,” in reference to an Iranian stake in ThyssenKrupp, which has reportedly netted Iran close to $100 million dollars over the past decade.
The Labor MK made waves earlier this year with an angry video tirade against Netanyahu and the ruling Likud party that drew comparisons in the media to the combative style of US President-elect Donald Trump.
Margalit, whose video campaign has been construed to augur a future push for the top spot of the Labor Party, the larger of two factions in the Zionist Union, has tried to fashion himself over the past year as a straight-talking politician unafraid of taking on the establishment.
Yaniv, a former top adviser to prime minister Ehud Barak, has in recent years taken on the roles of whistle-blower, TV pundit, and vociferous critic of Netanyahu. Having failed in the 2015 elections to get into the Knesset on the Zionist Union ticket, he has devoted himself to social media campaigns aimed at unseating the prime minister over a range of allegations of financial misdeeds.