Knesset Rejects Proposal to Form Commission of Inquiry Into ‘Submarines Affair’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the Israeli Navy’s fleet, after it arrived in Haifa port in 2016. (Reuters/Baz Ratner/File Photo)

The Knesset on Wednesday rejected in its preliminary reading a bill calling for the establishment of a special commission of inquiry into the purchase of submarines and other naval vessels for the Israeli Navy. The bill was submitted by Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid-Telem) and a group of other MKs.

In a roll-call vote, 19 MKs supported the bill, while 48 opposed the legislation. The explanatory notes attached to the bill state: “In the decision-making process related to the deal for the purchase of submarines and naval vessels, there were many faults, some of which have already been made public. In addition, the Prime Minister’s authorization to sell advanced submarines to Egypt raises severe​ questions about the decision itself, which was made without the participation of any [top Israeli security official]. The decision-making process pertaining to these two issues is crucial for Israel’s national security. There is grave concern that with regards to these issues, which are at the heart of the state’s strategic security, the motivations for the decisions were unclear and perhaps even criminal. To this day, the Prime Minister refuses to say why he authorized Germany to sell advanced submarines to Egypt, without anyone knowing about it in real-time.”

Prior to the vote, MK Moshe Ya’alon (Yesh Atid-Telem) explained the reasons for submitting the bill and said all those who are familiar with the details of the affair “define it as the most severe security-related corruption affair in the country’s history. We in Yesh Atid tried, of course, in the framework of this Knesset, to bring about the establishment of a state commission of inquiry, and there was even an attempt to bring the matter to the State Control Committee, so that the State Comptroller would launch an examination. If ‘there is nothing, because there was nothing,’ why is the Likud trying so hard to prevent the necessary examination?”

Minister David Amsalem (Likud) said in response, “You submit this proposal every week, one way or another. You are filled with obsession, poison and venom. When you were in the Likud and you were minister of defense, everything was fine by you, but the moment it was decided to move you from that post due to political constraints, you took it personally, and ever since then you have been persecuting the prime minister from morning till night.

“This was investigated by Israel Police. It passed the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General, and I understand that there is also a High Court ruling on the matter. Don’t you believe these systems? You are right not to, but don’t attack us for criticizing them,” Amsalem said.

Opposition leader Lapid said, “Two IDF chiefs of staff during the relevant period, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, explained to me, to you and to all the people of Israel that we must form a state commission of inquiry into the submarines because there is no other way to learn or know why the prime minister authorized Egypt to receive submarines from Germany. Because there is no other way, other than an investigation of a commission of inquiry, to know why all the rules of security procurement were violated.”

Lapid added, “If they do not vote for the establishment of a commission of inquiry, it will show that they don’t care about anything anymore, including security. All they are interested in is petty and wretched politics of seats.”