Ex-defense minister calls for Netanyahu to resign ‘immediately’

Moshe Ya’alon says the submarine scandal involving alleged corruption by PM’s close associates is damaging Israel

Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at a cultural event in Ra'anana on July 15, 2017. (Flash90)
Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at a cultural event in Ra'anana on July 15, 2017. (Flash90)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign immediately over a corruption case into a multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels from Germany that has ensnared a number of close associates of the premier.

While Netanyahu is not a suspect in the investigation, which is known as Case 3000, Ya’alon said the corruption alleged in the probe is harming the country and undermining the public’s confidence in Israel’s leadership.

“People don’t understand how much the corruption harms all of us. Think about what you could with two billion euros instead of going with a deal for naval vessels that there is no need for,” said Ya’alon at a cultural event in Netanya.

“There is a lack of confidence in the leadership. If the considerations from above are not clean, I am not positive that there is not also an effect on IDF enlistment,” he added.

“The prime minister must resign today — immediately.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Since he was fired in May 2016, Ya’alon has become a vocal critic of Netanyahu and has been on a campaign to implicate the prime minister in the investigation in the scandal-plagued multi-billion-shekel naval deals with the German firm ThyssenKrupp.

While the prime minister has denied wrongdoing in connection to the investigation, a number of former aides and associates have been caught up in the unfolding case.

In addition to David Shimron, the prime minister’s lawyer and cousin, and Avriel Bar-Yoself, a former National Security Council deputy head under Netanyahu, the prime minister’s former bureau chief David Sharan was also named as a suspect in the investigation earlier this month.

On Wednesday a court ruled that Sharan, a former top aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz before joining the Prime Minister’s Office as chief of staff in 2014, be held in jail for a further six days, saying that the suspicious against him have been “bolstered” in the case.

A number of other figures have recently been arrested in connection to the case in addition to Sharan, including senior aide to Steinitz Rami Taib, former minister Eliezer Sandberg and former head of the Israel Navy’s commando unit Shay Brosh.

Miki Ganor attends a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on July 21, 2017. (Flash90)

The ever-expanding list of high-level officials to be arrested or questioned in the probe comes following information given by Miki Ganor, who had been the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. After being identified as a key suspect in the case, Ganor turned state’s witness in July.

The recent wave of arrests in the investigation comes amid developments in two separate corruption investigations involving Netanyahu, known as Cases 1000 and 2000.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife Sara are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.

In addition to the corruption investigations involving Netanyahu himself, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Friday that he will charge the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu with fraud for allegedly diverting some NIS 360,000 ($102,000) of shekels in public funds for her own use, with the specific intention of avoiding payment of personal expenses.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara and Likud party members at a rally in his support, in Tel Aviv, on August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Addressing the Netanyahus’ legal woes, Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir accused the couple of using public funds as their own private expense account.

“The Netanyahus view themselves as a royal family and the people of Israel as their subjects,” Shaffir said Saturday at a cultural event in Beersheba.

“It is inconceivable that as the disabled are calling for a meager addition of NIS 2,000 [each month] in order to live, the Netanyahu family prefers to indulge itself with public money for their own personal benefit,” she added, referring to ongoing protests by the disabled calling for an increase in their monthly disability benefits.

Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir (Flash90).

Shaffir also questioned whether Netanyahu could be trusted with Israel’s security in light of the corruption allegations against a number of his associates.

“It is dangerous to continue to place Israel’s hands in the security of a person whom most of his associates spend more time in interrogation rooms than conference rooms, whether or not he knew about the corruption,” she said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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