Israel gets three new submarines from Germany. Three billion euros are to flow into the coffers of Thyssenkrupp for the construction of the boats. The federal government bears part of the costs. At the signing of the contract in Tel Aviv, which was reported on Thursday morning, the Director General of the Israeli Defense Ministry, Amir Eshel, and the Managing Director of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Rolf Wirtz, sat well lit in front of two Israeli flags and a world map. The dark shadow hanging over this politically explosive business was not visible.
The delivery of submarines has been at the center of German military aid to Israel for nearly three decades. The five boats delivered so far – a sixth is to follow shortly – have become a symbol of the country’s military clout and security. Here materializes what former Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up in her dictum that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s reason of state.
The boats are believed to be armed with nuclear weapons
The submarine deals, which have always been shrouded in secrecy, are also controversial: on the one hand, because the boats are believed to be equipped with nuclear weapons, the existence of which Israel has never officially admitted. On the other hand, because the deals that were engineered in the era of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are now considered by many to be the biggest corruption scandal in Israel’s history.
At the center of the affair is the former Thyssenkrupp representative in Israel, Miki Ganor. Between 2009 and 2016 he allegedly bribed top government officials to promote deals between Israel and ThyssenKrupp. Several close associates of Netanyahu are said to have belonged to this corrupt network.
So far, Netanyahu himself has only been heard as a witness in the case. However, numerous prominent representatives of the Israeli security apparatus, such as the former Defense Minister Moshe Jaalon, in affidavits issued by the Süddeutsche Zeitung could be viewed, serious allegations were also made against him. He is said to be against all reason and against the advice of experts promoted the ordering of submarines and other warships from Thyssenkrupp.
Reports of possible corruption in dealings with Thyssenkrupp had made waves in Israel
These allegations have apparently delayed for years the now agreed purchase of submarines seven to nine, which Netanyahu first discussed in Berlin in 2015. At the end of 2016, the first reports of possible corruption in dealings with Thyssenkrupp made waves in Israel. In October 2017, the sale was nevertheless approved by the federal government. Report Spiegel and Haaretz However, according to the Federal Security Council, the agreement included a clause allowing Berlin to stop the deal if the allegations of corruption were confirmed.
The public prosecutor’s office in Bochum discontinued the proceedings initiated in January 2021 because there was insufficient suspicion against Germans. In Israel, however, the case is by no means closed. Official charges were brought against Miki Ganor and five other men last summer. The process hasn’t started yet. In addition, the new Israeli government intends to set up a commission of inquiry into the submarine affair in the near future. According to Israeli reports, this was up for a vote in the cabinet last Sunday. But it was then postponed to avoid noise before the contract was signed with ThyssenKrupp.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke out against the sale of submarines to Israel in 2018
In Germany, however, the government apparently did not want to block the lucrative business for Thyssenkrupp any further. According to Israeli reports, it was advanced during Merkel’s farewell visit to Israel in October. The current Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, spoke out against the sale of submarines to Israel in an interview in 2018, referring to both the corruption investigations and the possible nuclear armament. In the most recent election campaign, however, she too always emphasized Germany’s responsibility for Israel’s security.
Israel’s media report, however, that the federal government has rejected a higher cost sharing that Israel has requested. Originally, the purchase price was not assumed to be three, but 1.8 billion euros. Of this, Berlin promised a subsidy of around a third. Now it is apparently to remain at around 600 million euros German participation, while Israel has to pay twice as much instead of 1.2 billion euros.