After extensive lobbying efforts, Israel has convinced Berlin to rethink the sale of two attack submarines to Egypt, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Tuesday.
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Ministry have known about the deal for Cairo to buy two Type-209 attack subs since last year, senior government officials in Jerusalem only complained in Berlin earlier this month, citing Israeli security concerns and the need to preserve Israel’s military edge in the Middle East, the newsmagazine reported.
On Tuesday, Der Spiegel reported that the German government agreed for the deal to be reconsidered and again discussed by the Federal Security Council. The council, whose meetings are secret, would withdraw its previous approval “if the Egyptian government pursues a policy hostile to Israel,” the magazine wrote. “That’s a personal promise [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel gave to Netanyahu.”
On November 28, Germany’s Federal Security Council approved the deal, in which Germany would sell Cairo two Type-209 attack submarines, Der Spiegel reported. The German government presumably figured that the sale of such submarines would not worry Israel, since they are less efficient than the Dolphin-class submarines Berlin provides to Israel.
“Yet to be on the safe side, Merkel personally contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the November meeting of the Federal Security Council and told him about the planned deal,” the weekly wrote. Israeli and German defense officials also discussed the deal. “It seemed as if it was a not-very-spectacular deal, certainly not a deal that could trouble German-Israeli relations.”
But that’s what eventually happened: The planned sale of the Type-209 subs to Egypt caused friction between Israel and Germany, with the Israeli media reporting that Jerusalem sought to torpedo the deal.
Already on Sunday, Israel’s lobbying seemed to bear fruit: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle promised, during a visit in Jerusalem, that Berlin “will acknowledge Israel’s security interests” before making a final decision on the Egyptian deal.
Jerusalem also reportedly demanded to have a say in all future German arms exports to the region, according to Der Spiegel. “However, that would constitute an end of German sovereignty vis-à-vis military issues and is considered by Berlin as unacceptable,” the paper wrote.
Israel currently uses three Dolphin-class submarines, which have been fully or partially funded by the German government. A fourth was transferred to the Israeli navy in May. Germany is due to deliver a fifth submarine in 2018, and the contract for a sixth was signed recently. According to foreign media reports, Israel’s submarine fleet is equipped with nuclear capabilities.