Kafe Knesset for Jan. 6: Interview with MK Erel Margalit

Yesterday, a few hours before the police arrived at the Prime Minister’s residence for a second interrogation within a week, the biggest petition in Israel’s history was submitted to the Supreme Court, demanding to investigate Netanyahu’s ship and submarine dealings, and his connection to the German company ThyssenKrupp AG, as well as his relationship with French convicted fraudster Arnaud Mimran. The petition was initiated by Zionist union MK Erel Margalit, and Labor party activist Eldad Yaniv, and they gathered more than 19,000 signatures to support their demand. This morning, the Knesset guard ordered to step up security protection around Margalit, following an escalation in social media threats, mainly surrounding Margalit’s clear-cut objection to granting a pardon to convicted soldier Elor Azaria earlier this week.

Margalit, who is also slated to compete for the Labor Party leadership later this year, told Kafe Knesset this morning that he “will not be intimidated, I will not conceal my opinions and I will continue to speak out against the government’s policy, even if someone doesn’t like it. I knew I would be paying a price when I appealed in demand of probing Netanyahu and when I came out against Azaria’s pardon, but it is Netanyahu’s responsibility since he has failed to condemn the incitement against the army leadership.”

Kafe Knesset: Police are now investigating a few suspicions against Netanyahu, so why move forward with the appeal to the Supreme Court?

Margalit: “I don’t know what Netanyahu is being interrogated about now, but I don’t care if he got a champagne bottle or a cigar box. I am not worried about the small things, that doesn’t interest me. I’m interested in the boats and the submarine and the bigger crooks such as Mimran, who is probably the number 1 thief in Europe who conned the French government for more than 400 million euros and is Netanyahu’s very good friend. At first, Netanyahu said he didn’t know this guy, then we found out that his personal lawyer and Cousin David Shimron opened up a company for Mimran and registered it on Shimron’s address. We are demanding the bigger deals be looked into. There is an informal probe going on, looking into the submarine deal, but we want a full process on the bigger issues.”

“Netanyahu and his lawyers are brushing off the current investigation as nothing, in a very blunt manner. In his Likud Party, one person after another is trying to delegitimize the law enforcement bodies, calling senior police officials “left wing commanders.” What the hell is that about? This comes after other figures in the Likud have attacked the IDF Chief of Staff and the heads of the Shin Bet security service, they are delegitimizing Israel’s security institutions and legal institutions. That’s very worrying, and when the PM is part of that chorus, positioning the police probe as almost nothing, we just want to know that justice is being done and carried out.”

Kafe Knesset: Netanyahu’s supporters claim this is not about justice but about toppling his rule, shouldn’t that be done through the ballot?

Margalit: “Look, when it was about Netanyahu’s house, or porch, or ice cream, I said nothing, I started talking about this when two things occurred– first, about 8 months ago, when I found out his lawyers and him are involved with the European crook, Mimran, and I asked myself – what the hell is going on here? Then, regarding the vessels deal, I am a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and I was asking quiet questions during our sessions about the ship deals and why the tenders were canceled and directed to Germany, but it was behind closed doors and I didn’t have any suspicion of Netanyahu’s involvement in the manner. But when media reports came out about Shimron’s connections to ThyssenKrupp – that Netanyahu’s personal attorney and one of his closest associates is doing the work for the company – things started to look suspicious. Then I found out that one of the owners of the company is the Lebanese defense minister, which according to reports meets with Rouhani and Nasrallah. I think these are the big issues that need to be on the table. We deserve to get answers to these questions.”

Kafe Knesset: How do you see this playing out, should the Prime Minister recuse himself?

Margalit: “I don’t know about the outcome, but I would like to know that the police is interrogating him the same way they would interrogate a common citizen. With respect to the issues at large, I think he should recuse himself for a period to take care of the issues and some of these issues need to be addressed with a sense of urgency for his sake and for our sake. If there is corruption he needs to resign because there will be an indictment. But I definitely think there are two big considerations to take into account: is he really managing and leading the state according to the states priorities or his own priorities, and if he has enough time and space on his mind to do so while police are investigating him.”

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