JERUSALEM The Israeli Defense Minister announced on Sunday the creation of a government commission of inquiry into the purchase of billions of dollars in submarines and missile ships under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an episode often described as the worst corruption scandal in Israeli history.
The Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, took the step mainly to put pressure on Mr. Netanyahu, a political rival, in fulfilling their coalition agreements, but he could also further destabilize their already shaky unity government.
Mr Netanyahu was not named as a suspect in a previous police investigation into the purchase of submarines and missile ships from Germany that captured some of his close associates. The planned commission of inquiry lacks legal authority. He can call any witness to testify, but he cannot force anyone to appear before him.
Led by a retired honorary judge, Amnon Strashnov, and including a former naval commander and former government procurement officers, the panel could have public and moral weight. The investigation is expected to last about four months and the findings of the commissions will be published.
The Defense Ministry probe could shed light on some of the processes that led to the procurement of submarines and ships, Mr. Gantz, a former army chief, said Sunday.
A full-fledged state commission of inquiry, which would have more teeth, could only be set up with the approval of the government, something that would not be clearly given by Mr Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
Mr Gantzs’s more restrictive move goes somewhat towards the satisfaction of voters and his disgruntled critics within his central Blue and White party, which has fallen in the polls since Mr Gantzs turned into an election promise and joined forces with Mr . Netanyahu.
The Likud party strongly criticized Mr Gantzs’ decision on Sunday, dismissing it as an empty political maneuver aimed at reviving his strong support.
Gantz has not managed to get out of the depths of the polls, the party said in a statement, so he is recycling submarines to collect votes while his party is busy with internal squabbles.
Mr Gantz joined the unity government in May, saying the priority was to tackle the coronavirus crisis and avoid a fourth election as three national elections within a year ended in a stalemate, with no party able to win a majority in parliament. to form a government.
But the Netanyahu-led government has been largely paralyzed, with partners vying for budget deadlines and high appointments. Likud politicians have made it clear that they do not intend to abide by the coalition agreement that was supposed to see Mr Gantz take over his post as prime minister in the long run.
Mr Netanyahu is on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three other cases involving charges of illegal gifts and trading in lucrative official favors in exchange for favorable media coverage. He has denied wrongdoing.
But the submarine issue has also continued to grieve over its future. Model submarines have emerged widely as supporters in anti-Netanyahu marches and protests that take place every week outside the prime ministers’ official residence. Critics have long argued that if Mr Netanyahu did not know what was going on, he should have known.
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