The Israeli Defence Minister is still insisting on forming an official investigation committee to look into the case of the German submarine deal, which revolves around suspicions that close associates of former Prime Minister, Netanyahu, were involved in receiving commissions from signing it. Gantz formed a commission of inquiry for the first time during his tenure in the same position in the previous coalition government, but it did not continue due to the dispute over its powers. Today, as Gantz reopens this file, this coincided with the visit of German Chancellor, Merkel, to Israel weeks before she relinquishes her position. However, what is new about the development of this file is related to Prime Minister Bennett’s desire to complete the passage of this deal. During his dinner with Merkel, he indicated that his government had re-examined this file and it was found that the Israeli security system is in dire need of these submarines, regardless of the rumours surrounding it. He urged Merkel to complete the deal after it was stopped due to suspected corruption, although German investigations did not reach any criminal suspicions about the deal. This means they can proceed with it without any legal or judicial objection.
The Israeli and German governments signed a memorandum of understanding in late 2017 on the submarine deal, after Germany insisted on a clause stipulating that Israel will not be supplied with submarines until the investigation into the case is completed, and all accusations of corruption are refuted. The fact that Gantz has re-opened the investigation into the agreement is in accordance with this clause. Meanwhile, by talking about the need to proceed with the agreement, given the needs of the Israeli security system, Bennet puts himself in opposition to the desire of his defence minister to investigate it. Bennett sees it as an important achievement for Israel, especially since Germany will take care of a third of the costs, which is an additional reason to continue the deal. Several Israeli security analyses indicated that there was no security need for this deal and that those calling for it are close to Netanyahu and are looking at the agreement in terms of the commission they are pocketing.
Of course, to return to the submarine deal, regardless of the reasons and motives between an investigation committee and the request to complete it, puts Netanyahu back into the spotlight in light of raising this issue again. Chancellor Merkel may have abandoned protocol by not meeting with opposition leader Netanyahu, unlike her previous visits to Israel when she always met with the opposition. It is as if she had implicitly convicted Netanyahu regarding the deal, despite the fact that German investigations closed this file without finding a conviction, but they did not find him innocent, either.
There are many reasons Israel fears the post-Chancellor Merkel era, even though it is convinced that her successor will remain equally committed to the security of a Jewish and democratic Israel. However, Israel is concerned that this successor will not show the same level of support that Merkel has shown to Israel at all levels—although the likely successor is Olaf Scholz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, who is a fan of Israel and has publicly declared his commitment to its security more than once. However, on the other hand, and like Merkel, he is calling for the return to the Iranian nuclear agreement. A source of concern for Israel is how the new coalition will be formed based on the last German elections, as this coalition depends on some parties that do not necessarily support Israel.
When Gantz formed a committee to investigate the submarine deal during the partnership government, it was done out of rivalry with Netanyahu, but his new call, which contradicts Bennett’s desire to complete the deal, has a dual message. It is a reminder of the series of investigations into Netanyahu and his return to the limelight as a suspect after the public has forgotten about this, and it also has the potential of a conflict with Bennett.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.