[Note: Although the Israeli government will never confirm it, it is assumed and even obvious why Israel has created a fleet of submarines: to let its enemies believe that the subs carry nuclear warheads. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself said recently that the additional submarines Israel has agreed to buy from Germany — a deal that has become controversial, largely because the Israeli military seems not to want them — are necessary in order to guarantee the survival of the Jewish state. Was there anything corrupt about Netanyahu’s decision? Here is an article written by Yossi Melman, co-author of the best seller Every Spy a Prince and the current Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, for the Jerusalem Post.]
The decision by Israel’s attorney general, Amichai Mandelblit, to open a police investigation into what is wrongly termed the “submarines affair” has dragged many in the media to suspect, or even accuse Prime Minister Netanyahu of corruption.
But Netanyahu is not a corrupt politician. He does not need to be, with casino tycoon friends such as American Sheldon Adelson and Australian James Packer, who would be more than happy to offer him top jobs with plenty of money if he retired and joined their organizations.
He is not corrupt.
Yet, this latest saga indicates that he is careless about selecting his confidantes, and may even be blind to seeing when they exploit, manipulate and use state secrets to advance their own interests. Two of them are at the center of the police investigation: his own and his family’s personal attorney David Shimron, and former deputy head of the National Security Council Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Avriel Bar Yosef.
There are four parallel and interwoven aspects to what should more accurately be called the “navy affair.” They are: submarines, new corvettes, the maintenance, and the role of agents and middlemen.
He hired attorney David Shimron to represent him. Shimron is a reputable Israeli lawyer, but no doubt he was approached by Ganor, not only because of his professional skills, but most probably also because of his access to Netanyahu.
The two went to Histadrut (labor unions federation) Secretary-General Avi Nissenkorn with a proposal that maintenance should be privatized. The submarines are maintained by the navy shipyards in the port of Haifa. Because of their strategic nature, the IDF and the navy do not want anyone without top security clearance to be able to get a close look at them.
Nissenkorn’s spokesman told me that in the meeting, Shimron and Ganor asked that both the submarines and the corvettes be taken care of by a private company, which the German corporation would create. Shimron denied that, telling me that they did not discuss the submarines, but only the ships, and in any case it was a very preliminary conversation. Whatever the truth, Nissenkorn rejected the request, because he opposes privatization.
Ganor is one of hundreds of Israeli agents, dealers and middlemen who represent international corporations that hope to clinch civilian or military deals in Israel. They serve as door-openers and lobbyists. In return, they are handsomely paid: the money variably defined as salaries, dividends, commissions and success fees.
In almost any sale of foreign-made weapons — be they planes, ships, intelligence equipment, or components for missiles — an Israeli middleman gets a cut.
You may say that this is the way of the world in doing business.
The problem in Israel, however, is that transparency and supervision by the government barely exist. Being a small and intimate society where everyone knows everybody, Israel witnesses the “revolving door” phenomenon.
Army or intelligence officers work on top secret projects while in service and later join the companies with which they worked. This opens many doors to potential corruption.
Israel society was once considered “unbribeable.” Not any more. From a small and unimportant military branch, the navy has become a big and powerful organization with a budget of billions. No wonder it attracts people like Ganor and Ben Yosef, among others.
Embarrassed by the media attention, ThyssenKrup said this week that they will open an internal inquiry to see whether Ganor operated according to their guidelines.
It will be interesting to see whether the German giant will express trust in its Israeli agent or replace him.
The Israeli police mission is much more complicated. It will have to find out whether Shimron, equipped with inside information, acted to enrich himself. And more importantly, whether Netanyahu knew about it or even encouraged him. Both Shimron and Netanyahu deny it.