Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has confirmed that Benjamin Netanyahu is not a suspect in the submarine investigation, dispelling rumors the prime minister was implicated in yet another corruption scandal.
In an interview with the Makor Rishon news site published Thursday, Alsheich said that indictments would be filed against a number of the suspects linked to the tainted multi-billion-shekel deal to purchase naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder.
When Netanyahu was summoned by police for questioning in February, reports speculated that police would question him under caution as a suspect.
A number of close associates of the prime minister, including his two personal lawyers, have been arrested or questioned in the investigation known as Case 3000.
Alsheich in the interview also denied reports that Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s Israel representative who turned state’s witness last year, was failing to deliver damning testimony to investigators.
“He delivered the goods and did so very well,” Alsheich said. “I think he gave everything he promised to give, and more.”
“In any case, the prime minister is not a suspect in this case,” he added.
In January, Hadashot TV news reported that police were set to recommend indictments against five suspects in Case 3000, including two close advisers to Netanyahu — David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho — and the premier’s former bureau chief, David Sharan.
Those three, as well as former commander of the Israeli Navy Eliezer Marom and former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, will likely be indicted on charges of bribery, breach of trust, fraud, and money laundering, the report said.
The investigation, much of it based on Ganor’s testimony, has focused on suspicions that state officials were paid bribes to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.
Though Netanyahu is not a suspect in Case 3000, he is under investigation in three separate graft cases dubbed 1000, 2000 and 4000.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in return for certain benefits.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister take steps weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
He has also been questioned in Case 4000, which involves suspicions he advanced regulation benefiting Bezeq telecom’s owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site.
Last month, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted on corruption-related charges in cases 1000 and 2000.
Despite being embroiled in numerous corruption cases and scandals, Netanyahu maintains popular support among Israelis.
The monthly Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index found that even though most Israelis do not believe Netanyahu’s claims of innocence, less than half think he should resign if indicted.
The IDI survey published Thursday found that 59% of Arab Israelis and 75% of Jewish Israelis think the prime minister is guilty of some form of corruption, and 42% of Israelis overall don’t think Netanyahu needs to resign if he is indicted in one of the cases.
Under Israeli law, a prime minister does not have to resign if charged in a criminal case — only if he is convicted. While the attorney general reportedly wants to see the prime minister step down if he is indicted, his coalition members have voiced their support for Netanyahu remaining in office even if he is charged.