Interior Minister Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas party, blasted Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday over the latter’s decision to form a governmental commission of inquiry into what he called a “submarine affair.”
According to Dery, Gantz crossed a “red line” by launching the probe, which, he said, would turn the army into political propaganda and potentially reveal classified information.
Dery added that while he supports the unity government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gantz and Likud party, “given the recent behavior I doubt whether there are justifications and benefits to continue in this partnership.”
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu accused Gantz of using the Israeli army for political gain. “This is a big disgrace,” Netanyahu said during a Likud meeting. According to Netanyahu, the commission is fixed and aimed solely at collecting votes.
Lavan Gantz’s Kantol party sees naming a commission of inquiry as a way to press Netanyahu over his attitude to the party, his refusal to pass the state budget, the freeze of senior appointments and his constant threat of an early election.
The submarine affair has become central to the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where demonstrators have carried inflatable submarines inscribed with slogans like “SS Investigation.” Protesters are calling for a commission to investigate the relationship, along with calling on Netanyahu to step down in light of his corruption charges.
The relationship revolves around claims that Netanyahu intervened to buy more German submarines, against the security establishment’s stance. It includes an agreement with ThyssenKrupp from Germany to buy submarines and patrol boats; the latter would protect Israel’s natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean. At stake in these deals, worth 1.5 billion euros and 430 million euros, respectively, are the deals between top Israeli officials and Israeli representative ThyssenKrupp. Senior IDF officials, public officials and several people close to Netanyahu are suspected of demanding and accepting bribes to promote the bargains with ThyssenKrupp.
After over a month of deliberations in the High Court on whether to set up a commission of inquiry, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Gantz people were statements made by Netanyahu’s associates this week, including the allegation by one of his advisers that the rotation accomplished. an agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz in a year depended on the conduct of the defense minister.
In October, Knesset Spokeswoman Yariv Levin of Likud revoked a Knesset vote that approved a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the submarine affair. The Knesset conducted an electronic vote, and a majority of Knesset members approved the opening of the commission. Coalition whip Miki Zohar of Likud claimed that he demanded a drop vote rather than an electronic one, and that his electronic vote did not register. Levin then revoked the results of the vote, saying the first vote had either not been announced or was said to be “soft.” The measure was shot down in a second vote.