* Petition calls on Supreme Court to intervene over contract
* Germany's ThyssenKrupp received $1.5 billion submarine
* Israel wants German firm to build patrol vessels too
* Questions raised about middleman and Netanyahu's lawyer
By Luke Baker
JERUSALEM, Dec 13 Israeli lawyers will petition
the Supreme Court on Tuesday to intervene over the awarding of a
defence contract to Germany's ThyssenKrupp amid allegations of a
conflict of interest involving Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's own lawyer.
The petition, sponsored by Erel Margalit, a high-tech
entrepreneur and opposition member of Israel's parliament,
argues that there was a lack of transparency in how a $2 billion
order for three submarines and four patrol vessels was awarded
to ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
The concerns focus on the role of Netanyahu's personal
lawyer, David Shimron, who is also his cousin. Shimron
represented the intermediary on the deal, Israeli businessman
Miki Ganor, who Israeli media say is set to earn $10 million.
Shimron has denied any impropriety and Netanyahu has said he
stands fully behind him. The attorney-general has ordered police
to investigate Shimron, but Margalit says it is too narrow an
inquiry and a much broader investigation is required.
"Israel needs to buy arms, planes, ships and missiles,"
Margalit, a member of the main opposition centre-left Zionist
Union party, told Reuters. "If someone is playing games with
that, then it undermines trust and it needs to be investigated.
"The way these deals were handled compromised our ability to
understand what's going on... I'm talking about a major
diversion of security arms deals. These are serious issues."
The petition is what is known in Israel as a "show cause"
order. If acted upon, it would involve the Supreme Court asking
the attorney-general to explain why he does not see fit to widen
the scope of his investigation.
The court has issued many such orders in the past, including
a high-profile one in 2011 when it asked the government to
explain its security policies towards Israeli Arabs.
As well as the relationship between Shimron and Ganor, which
ThyssenKrupp has said it is also investigating, Margalit said
several other aspects of the agreement should give the Israeli
public cause for concern.
'CHECKS AND BALANCES'
First, for decades Israel relied on a former brigadier
general, dubbed the "Submarine King", to broker orders with
Germany. But in 2009 he was unexpectedly replaced by Ganor, who
has far less experience. Ganor has not spoken about his role.
Secondly, since the deal was finalised in October, it has
emerged that Iran's foreign investment fund is a major
shareholder in ThyssenKrupp, with a 4.5 percent stake. With
Israel and Iran enemies, Margalit said Israelis deserved
reassurances that Tehran is not benefiting from the deal.
A further area of concern is that Israel's former defence
minister originally planned a tender for the patrol vessels,
with several countries interested in bidding. But instead of a
tender, the $450 million contract was awarded to ThyssenKrupp.
The government has said it followed all appropriate procedures.
"I've taken 14 companies public on Nasdaq," said Margalit,
who started one of Israel's most successful venture capital
funds. "There's a transparency involved.
"When it comes to these contracts, we do not know many of
the issues... You have to ask yourself if there was proper
conduct. That's why we need a full investigation."
The right-wing Netanyahu, who has been in power for 10 years
spread over four terms, has drawn frequent legal scrutiny,
including over whether he and his wife have used state funds to
support what critics say is a lavish lifestyle.
There is no indication the submarine affair reaches his
office directly, but Margalit said the public deserved clarity.
"We need to make sure the attorney-general explains
himself... and that there are checks and balances on a moral and
(Writing by Luke Baker; editing by Mark Heinrich)