Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said Saturday that the so-called submarine affair marked the first time he had considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be corrupt.
“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back with Netanyahu,” Ya’alon said at an event in the southern city of Beersheba. “I had never suspected that he was corrupt. But then he went behind the back of the chief of staff and the head of the navy to sign the deal with (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel, when the whole professional consensus — from the navy to the Defense Ministry — was that we needed five submarines, not six.”
Ya’alon, who was ousted as defense minister last year, was known to have disagreed with Netanyahu over the so-called “submarine affair,” in which the prime minister’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of attempting to sway multi-billion-shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKryupp which he represented in Israel. The purchase was opposed by parts of the defense establishment, including Ya’alon.
Ya’alon, who is trying to set up his own party to challenge Netanyahu, said that if it were not for the “submarine affair” he would still be defense minister.
It’s not the first time Ya’alon has alleged Netanyahu is corrupt.
Last month he threatened to “tell all” on Netanyahu’s alleged corruption if the prime minister is not indicted as part of three graft probes involving him or his associates.
“I knew about previous prime ministers that were corrupt for their own benefit, but it’s a completely different thing when a prime minister jeopardizes the interests of the country for his gain,” Ya’alon said during an interview broadcast on Channel 2 in May.
Following testimony by Ya’alon in January, police opened a full criminal investigation into the submarine affair, now known as “Case 3000,” but stressed that the prime minister was not a suspect.
Netanyahu is, however, a criminal suspect in two other ongoing formal police investigations.
In “Case 1000,” police are investigating allegations that a number of businessmen gave lucrative gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, over his years in office. Police are also investigating another case, known as “Case 2000,” in which Netanyahu is believed to have offered the publisher of Israel’s biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth his help in reducing the readership of Yedioth’s pro-Netanyahu rival paper Israel Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.
Asked in the interview if he thought the prime minister and Shimron were guilty of corruption, Ya’alon said he had “absolutely no doubt, no doubt whatsoever and if he is not indicted, I will go on a speaking tour to tell all. I will reveal everything.”
Writing on Twitter later, Ya’alon clarified that he had already told the police everything he knew but would “publicly reveal” the information if charges are not pressed.
Responding to the interview, sources close to the prime minister denied Ya’alon’s threat as “utter garbage and completely empty.”
In a statement given to Channel 2 news, the sources hit back with their own threats, promising that Ya’alon’s “brazen lies will soon be exposed as such.” Noting that the Justice Ministry has confirmed Netanyahu is not a suspect in “Case 3000,” the statement added that the former defense minister “would be well advised to find another way for him to [try to] pass the electoral threshold.”
Since resigning from the Knesset in May 2016 after he was replaced as defense minister by Avigdor Liberman, Ya’alon has become a fierce critic of Netanyahu and has vowed to form a new party to challenge the prime minister and the ruling Likud party in the next parliamentary elections.
But according to recent polls, Ya’alon’s anticipated party would fail to garner enough votes to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold and would therefore not enter the Knesset.
Under Israeli law, a prime minister does not need to step down if indicted and can continue to serve as premier for the duration of a trial.