Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday stepped up his attacks on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying there was no way that the premier could not have been involved in the scandal-plagued multi-billion shekel naval deals with the German firm ThyssenKrupp.
Even though police have stressed that Netanyahu is not a suspect in the investigation, Ya’alon has been on a campaign to implicate the prime minister in the issue.
“The first time I came across [corruption] was with Netanyahu in 2016 when the issue of the submarines arose,” Ya’alon said at a cultural event in the central city of Ra’anana.
In recent weeks police have arrested and interrogated several people on suspicion of corruption in the deal, including Netanyahu’s cousin and personal lawyer David Shimron, who has been questioned for four times over the scandal and placed under house arrest.
Avriel Bar-Yosef, a former National Security Council deputy head under Netanyahu, was also questioned for a fourth time on Thursday and was ordered to be held in police custody while the investigation continues. He is suspected of bribery, conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering over his role in recommending that Israel buy the submarines.
Other key suspects include Miki Ganor — ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel and a client of Shimron’s — who is suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime, as well as Eliezer Marom, a former navy chief.
Ya’alon said that he did not initially suspect wrongdoing by Netanyahu — even though the prime minister pushed for the purchase of additional boats despite the objections of Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and the navy, who wanted to put the money toward other systems.
“[Although] I already had suspicions about some of the suspects being investigated today because of their ties with Ganor. I was aware of these relations, but I didn’t suspect the prime minister was involved,” he said.
But after Netanyahu fired him in May 2016, he came to believe that the prime minister was involved in the affair. “Is it not obvious something stinks?” asked Ya’alon. “There is no way the prime minister wasn’t involved.”
Ya’alon has become a frequent critic of Netanyahu, vowing to challenge him in the next elections, which are currently due in 2019.
As the corruption scandal known as Case 3000 has deepened over the past week, Ya’alon has stepped up his attacks on Netanyahu, calling the prime minister “corrupt” and telling CNN in an interview that he believes the premier will eventually be indicted over the affair.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in this case, and over separate corruption allegations regarding questionable ties to top media, business and Hollywood executives.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the police to formally look into the submarine affair in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase the vessels by business ties that Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp. Late last year, Channel 10 News revealed that Shimron had served as an adviser to ThyssenKrupp’s representative Ganor.
Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case. However, police are planning to summon him to testify on what he knows about the issue and specifically as to whether he knew of the corruption allegations against Bar-Yosef when he sought to appoint him head of the National Security Council in 2016, Channel 2 news reported earlier this week.
Bar-Yosef’s candidacy was later withdrawn when it emerged that he was suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for promoting the interests of German businessmen involved in the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields.
Among other suspects are lawyer Ronen Shemer, who also worked for Ganor, and who is suspected of shredding documents. His remand has been extended to Sunday.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.