No Need for Netanyahu to Resign Yet

By Moshe Arens


August 13, 2017


The wheels of justice grind slowly – but not fast enough for some. Not for those whose mind is already made up, or those who do not believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, or those who want the prime minister to vacate his position right now without waiting for the outcome of the judicial process. They do not want to accept that we are dealing with a judicial process, and that attempting to influence this judicial process by demonstrating in front of the residence of the attorney general, who is heading the investigations, is a violation of the rule of law as practiced in a democracy. While they are disturbing the peace of the people who live in the neighborhood of the attorney general, one can only hope that they are not influencing his judgment.

The demonstrations are political, and it was only a matter of time before demonstrators would appear on the other side of the street, demonstrators who hold the opposite view. There is no vacuum in politics. Now they have generated a shouting match and a placard competition, whose influence on the final outcome will, hopefully, be nil.

The recent demonstration of support for the prime minister at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds was one too many. The attacks on the media voiced there cannot be substantiated. Whereas it is true that some newspapers have been consistent critics of the prime minister, it is equally true that Yisrael Hayom, the most widely read newspaper in the country, has consistently supported him. Makor Rishon, a weekly, and one of Israel’s best, has certainly not been antagonistic to him.

The almost daily media headlines tend to heighten people’s curiosity about what’s going on behind the closed doors of the investigation rooms, and rouse the passions of those who have already made up their minds. For the rest of us, my advice is patience. There is no reason to doubt the professionalism of the police investigators and the legal staff dealing with the investigations.

Some claim that in the face of these ongoing investigations the prime minister should resign. If our prime ministers, past and future ones, were to follow this advice our governments would not last more than a few months. Even if, as the result of the investigation, charges were to be filed against the prime minister he does not, by law, have to resign, unlike the case when a government minister is charged. And with good reason.  

It is correctly argued that changes in government should come by way of the ballot box. It is also true that this is not the only way to bring down a prime minister. If his party and his coalition partners lose confidence in him he can be forced to resign. That is what happened with Ehud Olmert.

Of the three investigations, it is the one into the acquisition of submarines for the Israeli Navy from the Thyssenkrupp shipyards in Kiel, Germany that raises the most serious questions. The initial purchase of submarines was carried out on the basis of direct contacts with the German chancellor at the time, Helmut Kohl. It was an arrangement between the two governments involving substantial financial assistance by the German government. There were no middlemen or agents collecting fees from this multi-billion contract.

At this stage it is not clear how agents collecting fat commissions appeared as part of additional purchases of submarines from the same shipyard, involving additional assistance from the German government. This is puzzling especially since the Kiel shipyard is the only possible supplier of such submarines, and therefore the shipyards were not in need of an agent to assist them in competitive bids. Hopefully all this will become clear as the investigation proceeds.