Israel's Gantz puts submarines probe on hold

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 30 2020 09:00 AM

JERUSALEM - Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday froze a probe into the purchase of German submarines that had riled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a justice ministry request.

The investigative commission from the defense ministry to "shine a light on parts of the process surrounding the purchase of these submarines", announced a week ago, has heightened tensions between the two longtime rivals.

Israeli police suspect individuals in and outside the military of corruption in the purchase of the submarines from German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp for around $2 billion.

Among those allegedly implicated in the affair is a lawyer for the prime minister, David Shimron, who faces accusations of money laundering related to the purchase.

On Sunday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asked for the commission to delay its work.

"I would request that the commission does not begin its work until the completion of the examination" by the justice ministry, Mandelblit said.

Gantz said the commission would wait for Mandelblit to give the green light.

"The commission's work and conduct will take place in accordance with the professional directives of the attorney general... in order to not interfere with the criminal process," he said in a statement.

Netanyahu and Gantz had put aside their intense rivalry earlier this year to forge a coalition after repeated elections failed to yield a viable government.

But Netanyahu on Monday charged that Gantz's "shameful" commission was designed to "scrape together votes" in a future election.

"After all the enforcement authorities determined time and again that Prime Minister Netanyahu had nothing to do with the submarine affair, Gantz put together a biased committee," he told members of his Likud faction.

Netanyahu in May became the only sitting head of government in Israel's history to face trial on corruption charges, which are not connected to the submarine purchases. 

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© Agence France-Presse

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