Israel will sign a deal tomorrow to acquire a sixth German-made submarine, with the German government paying a third of the cost. The deal will be inked in Berlin by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere.
A senior Defense Ministry official said the deal has strategic significance for Israel's security.
"Despite all the problems en route, Israel is determined to equip itself with this tool," the official said. "When we have more submarines we can maintain continuous operations, and that gives the navy some breathing room."
The German parliament approved the agreement, including Germany's 135 million euro contribution, a few months ago, following three years of negotiations. It did so only after Israel released the Palestinian Authority tax revenue that it froze when UNESCO admitted "Palestine" as a member state.
According to the Defense Ministry official, Barak will leave for Berlin today and hold a series of meetings with De Maiziere, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, German National Security Adviser Christoph Heusgen, the chief of the German General Staff and senior members of parliament.
"Such visits to Germany are important, because the Germans are a key partner on both diplomatic and security issues," the official said. "There will be strategic talks on all the matters on the agenda, topped by Iran.
"Although there are disagreements on the Palestinian issue, Germany is a very friendly country, and there is well-established security cooperation with them," the official added.
The signing ceremony tomorrow will be attended by former Israeli ambassador to Germany Yoram Ben Zeev, who worked intensively over the past three years to advance the submarine deal. His replacement, Yaakov Hadas, who presented his credentials last week, will also attend.
Israel's submarine fleet is the navy's long-range strategic arm. It currently numbers three German-made Dolphin vessels, with a fourth and fifth on order.
The first three submarines were given to Israel by Germany in the late 1990s, with the German government footing most of the bill. According to foreign reports, they are equipped with cruise missiles that have a range of 1,500 kilometers and can carry nuclear warheads. These reports say the submarines enable Israel to deliver a "second strike" in the event of a nuclear attack.
The fleet also carries out intelligence-gathering missions far from Israel's borders and defends its territorial waters.
Construction of the fourth and fifth submarines, in the German city of Kiel, is almost complete, and they are scheduled to be delivered in 2013 and 2014, respectively. These two vessels are equipped with state-of-the-art systems that enable them to remain underwater for a longer period of time.
The sixth submarine, which won't arrive for at least another four years, will be even more advanced.