Hundreds of Israelis protested outside Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be investigated in a scandal surrounding a $2 billion submarine deal with Germany.
Several Israeli businessmen, including confidants of Netanyahu and a former commander of the navy, are suspects in a graft scandal connected to the purchase of warships and submarines from German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.
The protesters, many in cars that had driven in convoys from northern and southern Israel, carried makeshift submarines on top of their vehicles as they passed the court.
Netanyahu, who is on trial in three other corruption cases, was questioned but not named as a suspect in the submarine scandal.
Dan Halutz, a former military chief of staff, has accused Netanyahu of hiding relevant information from defense officials when deciding to purchase the submarines from Germany.
On Wednesday, Ahaz Ben-Ari, a former top Defense Ministry official, said in an Israeli TV interview that a key suspect in the case invoked Netanyahu’s name while lobbying for ThyssenKrupp, a German shipbuilder, to be awarded the lucrative contract.
Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who has said Netanyahu is not a suspect in the affair, known as Case 3000, is on Thursday set to issue the state’s response to petitions for the prime minister to be investigated.
Wednesday’s protest took place after emergency restrictions limiting public demonstrations expired. Those restrictions, imposed under a new lockdown, allowed people to demonstrate only within a kilometer (half mile) of their homes.
Netanyahu is standing trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases — and bribery in one of them — in which he is accused of trading favors in exchange for lavish gifts and favorable news coverage.
He has professed innocence, saying the charges are trumped up by a biased justice system and a liberal media.
Netanyahu has also been facing growing dissatisfaction with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, with weekly protests against him being held for over three months.
The country entered a second nationwide lockdown last month, dealing another blow to an economy already hit hard by the pandemic.
Netanyahu announced Wednesday that the lockdown has brought down infection rates and that the government will soon announce its plans for an exit strategy.