netanyahu submarine scandal
© Baz Ratner / Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent six hours answering investigators' questions about the involvement of his cousin and top aide in alleged corruption and bribery of the government into buying German-made submarines.

Netanyahu testified about "the range of professional considerations" leading him to decide to purchase three Dolphin-class submarines and four Sa'ar 6-class corvettes from the renowned German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, the PM's office said in a statement on Tuesday. The police refused to elaborate on the details of the testimony, noting that the investigation, under the supervision of the State Attorney, is ongoing.

It is the first time Netanyahu, not a suspect himself, has been questioned in the so-called 'Case 3000,' which revolves around the alleged corruption and graft in the procurement of the vessels.

The deal triggered controversy when it was revealed that Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp's agent in Israel, hired Netanyahu's cousin and personal attorney, David Shimron, to lead the negotiations. The international tenders for the vessels were cancelled and the orders eventually awarded to ThyssenKrupp. Now Shimron, along with several other of Netanyahu's advisers and top officials, are accused of graft.

According to Ganor, who currently is a witness in the case, he and Shimron used code names while discussing the deal, with Netanyahu allegedly dubbed a 'friend'. Shimron denies the charges and is claiming he never spoke to the PM about the naval vessel deals, nor did he try to influence him.

Netanyahu insists that the deals serve Israel's national interests. The sale of the submarines shows Germany's "commitment to Israel's security", he said in 2017 when, despite the growing scandal, the €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) agreement was signed. The contract on corvettes, worth €430 million ($480 million), was signed in 2015, with the first vessel to be delivered next year. In April, the navy revealed their future names: Magen ('Shield'), Oz ('Valor'), Atzmaut ('Independence'), and Nitzahon ('Victory').

The three German-built submarines are expected to replace Israel's existing subs which will be decommissioned. The new subs are potentially capable of carrying nuclear weapons and may be used both in combat and surveillance. The corvettes are intended to secure the country's offshore gas fields.

Police also questioned Netanyahu over Case 4000, believed to be the strongest case against the four-term Israeli leader. It examines whether the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom gave Netanyahu favorable coverage on the Walla news website in return for favors from regulators. Netanyahu was communications minister from 2014 to 2017, while also serving as prime minister. In another investigation, Case 1000, police allege Netanyahu was given over $280,000 in gifts by businessmen and a Hollywood producer, and are recommending he be indicted for bribery. Case 2000 alleges Netanyahu worked with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, to slow the growth of a rival newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage.