As expected, Israel's election campaigns are getting dirtier the closer we get to April 9. The current uproar is, again, over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly profiting from a deal to have German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp make new submarines for the Israel Navy.
According to the details of what's known as "Case 3000," Netanyahu stands accused not only of pocketing financial kick-backs from the deal, but also of personally approving the sale of submarines to Egypt. His rivals in the poll-leading "Blue and White" faction say this amounts to nothing less than treason.
Just last week, new details regarding the relationship between Netanyahu and Thyssenkrupp "magically" surfaced just in time for the election. The new allegation is that Netanyahu unfairly profited from the submarine deal because he owned shares in one of Thyssenkrupp's suppliers.
The details are that in 2007, Netanyahu bought four million shekels worth of shares in a company called SeaDrift, which in turn was acquired in 2010 by GrafTech, which manufactures graphite electrodes for Thyssenkrupp. Netanyahu sold his shares 18 months prior to the agreement for Thyssenkrupp to build submarines for Israel for 16 million shekels. So, while the prime minister no longer owned shares in one of Thyssenkrupp's suppliers, eliminating suspicion regarding a conflict of interests, there remain questions over how his initial investment was returned fourfold in just a couple years. What's raising eyebrows is the fact that SeaDrift was owned by Netanyahu's cousin, Nathan Milikowsky, though the prime minister insists that he profits from his investment were perfectly legal and duly reported to the relevant authorities.
As for Netanyahu's agreeing to let the shipbuilder also sell submarines to Egypt, he maintains that for security reasons he can't disclose why that decision was made, but has blasted the leaders of Blue and White for cynically using it against him.
For insinuating that he had somehow committed treason, Netanyahu has taken the unprecedented step of filing a libel suit against his chief rivals in the election. Last week, Netanyahu announced on Facebook: "Lapid, Gantz and Yaalon calling me a traitor is a grave incitement that can't be overlooked. The lies of Lapid, Gantz and Yaalon is the crossing of a red line regarding the most crucial issues relating to Israel's security. Therefore, I have instructed my lawyers to submit a libel suit against them." In other words, Netanyahu is returning the favor and accusing the Blue and White leaders with treason.
Will all this commotion cause Likud voters to change their minds? It's unlikely. The Likud's right-wing constituency by-and-large stands with Netanyahu in the face of what he calls a "fake news" campaign aimed at unseating him. Most of his voters will see it as their duty to stand by Netanyahu all the more.