Follow the lawyer
Op-ed: In his fourth term, Netanyahu is a king in his palace. As the one who was the first to spot the Mount Carmel fire, can’t he spot a fire in his own courtyard? Those who oppose the submarines' purchase question its timing. The real question is the involvement of the PM's lawyers and relatives.
It is important to say this because it is unthinkable that an Israeli prime minister would decide to spend billions from the defense budget in order to fill his pockets with money, and also because once the affair is clarified, if it is clarified, the prime minister will immediately claim that all kinds of radical journalists, the state’s enemies and destroyers, leveled false accusations on him. This affair is serious enough without the Netanyahu family’s bank account being part of it.
Netanyahu, in his fourth term, is a king in his palace. He is surrounded by courtyard filled with chamberlains and relatives. Each and every one of them has an agenda; each has interests, aspirations, passions. "Did you know?" the investigators will ask, if they really want to investigate. "I did not," Netanyahu will say. "How did you not know?" they will ask. "Why you are the one who is the first to spot a fire on Mount Carmel? Can’t you spot a fire in your own courtyard?"
Netanyahu’s decision, to finalize the purchase of three additional advanced submarines from the German shipyard, produced three types of responses from well-informed people, senior defense establishment officials in the past and in the present. There are those who see it as an erroneous but legitimate decision; there are those who see it as a reasonable decision; and there are those who see it as the right decision. The argument has to do with strategic considerations regarding Iran and the list of priorities in equipping the IDF and the defense budget.
Those who oppose the decision are mainly questioning its timing: The Navy will only need these submarines in 15 to 20 years. In the meantime, the equipment will be improved or become cheaper, the defense needs will change and the list of priorities will change.
Those who support the decision say that if Netanyahu prefers to do business with German Chancellor Angela Merkel rather than with her successors, he is entitled to; they compare the submarine decision to the considerations which promoted the IDF and the government to decide to purchase F-35 planes. Both deals create a commitment for decades, they say. It’s reasonable to assume that by the time the last F-35 arrives, 80 percent of its tasks will be performed in a cheaper manner by unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s less reasonable to assume that such a revolution will occur underwater.
The two problematic issues which the police investigation should focus on are the decisions related to the purchase of the ships for the protection of the gas rigs, and the involvement of the prime minister’s lawyers and relatives in the entire affair. I will focus now on the lawyers’ involvement.
The lawyers are David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s relatives and the owners of a successful law firm. Shimron serves as Netanyahu’s confidant in any political negotiation and as the family’s attorney on every single issue, including the financial affairs that are being examined as we speak by the State Attorney’s Office, and will soon turn into an investigation under caution. Molcho serves as Netanyahu’s messenger in diplomatic negotiations.
Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker did remarkable journalistic work in its quality, importance and accuracy by exposing Shimron’s involvement in the German company’s activity. It turned out that Shimron was the lawyer of Miki Ganor, the German company’s representative in Israel; it also turned out that Shimron had met with the Histadrut labor federation’s chairman at the Germans’ service, and even approached the defense establishment’s legal advisor on the issue. The revelations allegedly pointed to a blatant conflict of interest between Shimron’s commitment as the prime minister’s confidant and his activity as a private attorney. Shimron denied everything. His denials were refuted, putting the prime minister in an embarrassing situation, if not worse.
On Wednesday, when it was revealed that the police had received additional intelligence, of a criminal nature this time, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit realized that there was no escape from ordering a police investigation. Netanyahu should have immediately announced that he is breaking off contact with Shimron and Molcho until the affair is clarified. Any conversation with them will generate claims that they may be disrupting the investigation, withholding evidence or coordinating testimonies. In the meantime, Netanyahu has done nothing.
“It stinks,” a source in the Justice Ministry concluded Wednesday. It’s too early to predict how far this stench will go once the affair fades away, whether this was a collection of mistakes in good faith, whether it was an ongoing ethical offense or a series of criminal acts.
Follow the money, the Watergate informant advised the journalists who exposed the affair. In this case, the required advice would be to follow the lawyer.