20,000 suspects under the sea
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20,000 suspects under the sea

The latest submarine scandal depth charge puts the focus on a minister other than Netanyahu, and Hezbollah tensions resurface

Eliezer Zandberg, right, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in 2013. GPO)
Eliezer Zandberg, right, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in 2013. GPO)

For news gatherers, Case 3000, also known as the submarine affair, seems to be the scandal that keeps on giving, and I’m not even talking about the rich breadth of puns the affair facilitates.

The arrest of a former minister and an aide to a current minister are the latest developments in the case, which involves suspicions of a bribery scheme around a multibillion dollar naval arms deal with German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp, keeping the scandal front and center on the front pages of Israel’s major dailies Tuesday morning.

Yedioth doesn’t even go for a pun with its headline, opting for a rhyming “former minister a prisoner” (it’s actually “former minister under arrest,” but that doesn’t rhyme in English).

“The march of those being investigated in Case 3000 continues to roil the political scene, and yesterday it was the turn of former infrastructure minister Modi Zandberg,” the paper reports, using Eliezer Zandberg’s nickname. It adds that Zandberg in the past worked for a Korean shipbuilder that competed against the German firm, before joining wheeler-dealer Mickey Ganor for a series of projects, receiving some NIS 100,000 in bribes from the middleman who has now become a state’s witness.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, the amount of people close to him that are have raised alarm bells. So the prime minister is likely pleased to see the heat now focused on Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, whose aide was arrested as well, and who is going to be called in to testify. While Yedioth runs a separate article of Steinitz protesting his innocence, the minister’s name is all over coverage in Netanyahu-friendly Israel Hayom (which does go for a pun: “deepening suspicions”).

“Steinitz’s name first came up among the wave of arrests as someone connected to Ganor being appointed a Thyssenkrupp representative. In recent days, Steinitz’s name has come up again after those close to him, including former deputy national security adviser Avriel Bar-Yosef, political aide Rami Tayeb and David Sharan, who headed his bureau when he was finance minister, were questioned and arrested,” the paper reports in its first paragraph, conveniently omitting that Bar-Yosef and Sharan are also close to Netanyahu.

The submarine story is lower down on Haaretz’s front page, its lead story another roundabout knock against Netanyahu — this time reporting that his entreaty to Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop supporting Iran failed so badly that Moscow is now defending Hezbollah at the United Nations.

“Russia worked behind the scenes to protect Hezbollah during last week’s discussions in the UN Security Council on a resolution to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon, talks with Israeli officials indicated. A classified cable sent from the Israeli UN delegation to Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem reinforces that view,” the paper reports, making sure to note that this came mere days after Netanyahu met with Putin.

The paper also looks at the massive IDF war game simulating a battle against Hezbollah kicking off Tuesday, with military correspondent Amos Harel noting in a column that the army’s goal of soundly vanquishing the Lebanese terror group might be possible on paper, but not in reality, and thus is meant to send a message to both Israel and the Shiite organization.

“Hezbollah is aware of the Israeli military’s preparations for the exercise and is expected to do its utmost to analyze Israel’s plans and assess its capabilities. Despite the soothing messages emerging from Israel, which stress that this is no more than a drill (with the Lower Galilee serving as “south Lebanon”), one can assume that regional anxieties will rise over the coming 10 days,” he writes. “Israel will seek to utilize the exercise to deliver a deterrent message: Despite Hezbollah’s improved capabilities over the past 11 years, the increase in the Israeli army’s aerial, intelligence, technological and ground maneuvering abilities is significantly greater. If Hezbollah makes the mistake of thinking that its achievements in the Syrian war have prepared it for success against the Israeli army, it will pay a heavy price.”

Israel Hayom also covers the drill, noting that it is also meant to send a message to Iran, which funds Hezbollah. On the paper’s op-ed page, Zalman Shoval cautions the world against forgetting about Iran with all the attention going to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“The Trump administration, even though it says it is against Iranian intrusion, hasn’t taken any practical steps. Because of the almost singular focus on North Korea, most of the world is ignoring the fact that thanks to the nuclear deal signed with Iran can at any moment, and certainly when the six years remaining of the deal are up, turn into a nuclear weapons power,” he writes. “Unlike North Korea, whose ambitions seem mostly limited, Iran sees the potential of its nukes and rockets as methods for realizing its hegemonic ambitions.”

Yedioth meanwhile keeps up its attack against Israel Hayom over revelations that seem to point to Netanyahu exercising some control over the tabloid, matching up more dates of calls between Netanyahu and Israel Hayom’s editor with headlines that appeared the next. It’s mostly excited about revisiting an earlier time in history, though, with a preview of an expose into the Mossad’s hunt for Nazi Josef Mengele, or as he is called in the paper “Dr. Death.”

Reporter Ronen Bergman reports that a massive file known as “the Meltzer file” contains details into what he says was one of the Mossad’s most complicated and longest missions ever, which he will reveal on Friday. In the meantime, he teases out several details of the Mossad’s ultimately unsuccessful several-decade quest to try and track down the notorious killer doctor of Auschwitz.

“The Meltzer file describes a series of daring operations, break-ins, phone taps, attempts to lure his wife Martha into affairs and even a plan to kidnap the 12-year-old son of one of the men connected to Mengele,” he writes, “in the hopes that maybe he would reveal where the doctor from Auschwitz was.”

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