Germany to Sell Israel Two More Subs at Major Discount

Germany will provide Israel with two more Dolphin class submarines, the German weeklies Der Spiegel and Focus reported yesterday.

According to the magazine reports, the outgoing government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder acceded to the Israeli government's requests, and even agreed to pay about a third of the cost of the submarines. Construction of the submarines, which will take place at the shipyards in Kiel, will cost around 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion), of which a third will be financed by the German government.

If these reports are correct, then the two submarines would join three Dolphin class submarines supplied to the Israeli navy in the past. Two of the three submarines, built to Israeli specifications, were given to Israel gratis following the Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War after it turned out that German companies had aided Saddam Hussein's weapons program.

In recent years, Israel tried to persuade the German government to provide additional submarines, but the Germans were hesitant. German media reports said the reason was concern that Israel would outfit the submarines for missiles with nuclear warheads. However, Israeli sources said the primary dispute was over whether Germany should charge the full price. Der Spiegel and Focus said yesterday that Germany had indeed long resisted Israel's request to help finance the cost of the submarines.

According to foreign media reports, the growing concern over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons has led Israel to develop nuclear "second-strike capability," and submarines, which cannot be detected and targeted, constitute an effective means to that end. That conclusion, according to foreign media reports, was also drawn from the fact that the torpedo hatches on the Dolphin submarines supplied to Israel have been substantially widened - which ostensibly indicate they are intended for launching nuclear missiles.

Second-strike capability is a country's ability to respond with nuclear weapons even after a nuclear attack. Second-strike capability requires nuclear missiles concealed underground or installed on submarines.