Netanyahu and the submarine scandal: Everything you need to know

As prosecutors reportedly mull a criminal probe against the PM in yet another case, what exactly are the purchase deals being probed, what are the suspicions and what comes next?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haif

Michael Bachner writes in Times of Israel:

State prosecutors are reportedly considering opening yet another criminal graft investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this time in the so-called submarine affair, citing “dramatic” new information.

The high-profile Case 3000 investigation has ensnared several close associates of Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received illicit funds as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. Some have called it the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history.

As the complex bribery probe takes more twists and turns, with new revelations tying the prime minister himself to the case and a key state witness seeking to retract his testimony, what is the case actually about?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the deals at the root of the so-called submarine scandal?

Four deals involving Israel and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp are linked to the probe.

The first of the deals is the purchase of an advanced Dolphin-class submarine for the Israeli Navy, its sixth, which was pushed by Netanyahu since taking office in March 2009 and officially signed with ThyssenKrupp in 2012. The submarine is due to arrive in Israel later this year. Israel currently has five operational Dolphin-class submarines.

File: An Israeli Navy submarine sails in front of a Sa’ar 5-class corvette in the waters south of Tel Aviv as part of the Israeli Navy’s flotilla in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day on April 19, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

A second deal, which hasn’t yet been implemented, was pushed by the government in 2016 to purchase three more Dolphin-class submarines (numbers six to nine) from ThyssenKrupp. This went against the opinion of then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and other defense officials, who contended that Israel did not require that many submarines.

A third deal, which also hasn’t been implemented, was the purchase of four Sa’ar 6-class corvettes to protect Israel’s offshore gas assets. A tender for supplying four 1,200-ton ships yielded bids from South Korean, Italian and German shipbuilders. ThyssenKrupp, however, did not participate in the tender process as it did not build ships in the range requested, but around 2016, the tender was abruptly canceled, and the government handed the project exclusively to ThyssenKrupp. The size requirements were suddenly changed from 1,200 tons to around 2,000 — a size within ThyssenKrupp’s portfolio.

The fourth deal connected to the affair is Egypt’s purchase of two Dolphin-class submarines, similar to the ones the Israeli Navy has, and two anti-submarine warships. Cairo ordered the naval vessels in 2014. Though Germany does not require Israeli permission to sell the advanced submarines to other countries, it has shown Jerusalem that courtesy in order to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in the region.

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