Berlin said to okay discount on arms to Israel after diplomatic spat

Refusal to slash some $300 million off gunboat sale over peace talks collapse rescinded by Germany after push by Liberman

Illustrative photo of a Tomahawk cruise missile fired from aboard a US destroyer. (Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative photo of a Tomahawk cruise missile fired from aboard a US destroyer. (Wikimedia Commons)

After months of negotiations, Germany has agreed to slash the price on a gunboat sale to Israel, after originally balking at the discount when peace talks with the Palestinians collapsed.

The agreement for three fast guided missile destroyers is now estimated to be worth about $766,274,080, about two-thirds of the original price.

The deal is expected to be signed within a matter of weeks, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday.

Israel had originally requested that Germany slash 30% off the nearly $1,150,000,000 price tag for the destroyers, just as Germany had done in previous arms deals between the two countries.

But in May, Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s national security adviser, informed his Israeli counterpart Yossi Cohen that Germany would only be willing to sell the destroyers at full price.

Heusgen asserted that following the collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians about two weeks beforehand, the German government would not approve a discounted arms sale to Israel, Haaretz reported.

In June, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Berlin to meet with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and again raised a request for a reduced price for the destroyers, according to Haaretz.

Liberman’s visit served as a catalyst for a new round of negotiations between Israeli and German officials, which culminated three months later with Germany finally authorizing the rebate.

The destroyers will be used to protect Israel’s natural gas infrastructure.

“Liberman dealt with the issue incessantly,” an Israeli official who requested to remain anonymous told Haaretz. “He played a very positive part and managed to enlist many German officials to advance the issue.”

Germany, which says it maintains a “special relationship” with Israel because of its role in the Holocaust, has remained a staunch ally of Jerusalem and, delivering advanced weaponry to the Jewish state.

Germany has so far supplied the Israeli navy with four advanced Dolphin-Class submarines, sold at a discount, and is scheduled to deliver a fifth submarine from Germany later in 2014.

Germany’s key role in bolstering Israel’s naval fleet has raised some opposition in Berlin, with senior politicians voicing concern over the possibility that Jerusalem will misuse the German arms.

“Germany must not deliver weapons to conflict areas and to dictators,” Ralf Stegner, of the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, said in an interview two weeks ago. “What about Saudi Arabia? What about Qatar? I am also asking: What about Israel?”

Stegner clarified that his position is not to be understood to be anti-Israel — “I’m just against arms exports into crisis areas and dictatorship!” he tweeted.

The SPD is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

In a 2008 speech in the Knesset, however, Merkel declared that Israel’s security is part of her country’s “raison d’etat” (Staatsraison in German).

Therefore, she vowed, “Israel’s security will never be open to negotiation.”

Raphael Ahren and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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