Moshe Ya’alon, a former chief of staff who has also been Israel’s minister of defense, described it as “the largest, most serious corruption scandal in the history of the state.” He was referring to the intention of the police to indict five prominent Israelis, including a former commander of the Israeli navy, under suspicion of criminal involvement in the purchase some time ago of submarines and other vessels from ThyssenKrupp, the German manufacturers.
Israel is said to have spent some $2billion on the deal, allegedly without due process and instead of purchasing other equipment said to be much more needed by the armed forces.
The five men accused appear to have pocketed large fees as facilitators. They include men close to Prime Minister Netanyahu. One of them is his lawyer and cousin, another a former chief of staff in his office.
The question that’s being asked by Netanyahu’s critics is if he himself has been involved in the scandal either directly or as a result of wilful blindness, i.e., by seeking to avoid liability by intentionally keeping himself unaware of facts that would render him liable while condoning people around him to take bribes. But please note: the police hasn’t charged him with anything.
The issue came to light when the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp was indicted for bribing the five men and perhaps also other officials. In exchange of being charged with much less serious crimes he agreed to provide details that implicated others.
Needless to say, the opposition in the Knesset has demanded the prime minister’s resignation while he and his supporters stress that he had never been even a suspect. Ya’alon’s above cited outburst may be coloured by his recent political ambitions to challenge the prime minister and his party in the next elections.
Yet even members of the general public, including some who voted for him, seem to find it difficult to believe that Mr. Netanyahu didn’t know what was happening. He’s said to be too smart to be personally involved, but too bright not to be wilfully blind.
The brouhaha has probably persuaded him not to call early elections in the hope that, with time, the issue will be forgotten. His successes on the international arena – despite the setback in relations with Russia because of the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria, allegedly by Israel – are seen by the public here as evidence of his statesmanship that should earn him another term in office. What’s willful blindness in comparison to good relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States?
The economy is doing quite well, which usually reflects favourably on the head of the government, even though in this case it may be the work of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the Kulanu party, who hopes to gain more mandates in the next election by pointing to his successes, even though other, notably the outgoing Governor of the Bank of Israel, seem to fear that the short-term gain may cost Israelis much long-tern pain.
And to repeat: the absence of a credible alternative within his own party or outside (including Kahlon) it is likely to assure the re-election of Binyamin Netanyahu as the prime minister of Israel.
Jerusalem 11.11.18 Dow Marmur