Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday that Germany has transferred four Patriot missile batteries to Israel as part of a military aid program.
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Ya'alon made the statement at a joint press conference with German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen at the Kirya military compound in Tel Aviv. Israel received the PAC-2 batteries over the past few years as part of a surplus deal between the two countries.
Earlier Monday, the Defense Ministry announced that it has signed a contract to purchase four missile boats from Germany for the Israel Navy, to be used to protect Israel’s offshore natural-gas drilling platforms in the Mediterranean. A senior Israel Navy officer said in recent weeks that the drilling platforms are considered a viable target by Hezbollah.
The contracts were signed by ministry director general Dan Harel and the CEO of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Andreas Burmester. As part of the transaction with the shipping firm, Israel will receive a special 115-million euro ($128-million) grant from the German government.
The entire purchase price is estimated at 430 million euros. Plans call for the boats to be supplied over the next five years.
A Defense Ministry statement mentioned that the vessels, to be used in Israel’s economic waters – an offshore region including the gas-drilling areas, which extends beyond Israel’s territorial waters – will be paid for with funding does not come from the defense budget and was approved by the cabinet. The shipping firm also committed to deals amounting to about 700 million shekels ($180 million) in reciprocal purchases, the statement added.
Harel issued the following statement on the new deal: “The transaction signed today is a highly significant event that constitutes a dramatic jump ahead in the capacity of the navy to protect the strategic sites of the State of Israel in the gas sector, at a distance of tens and hundreds of kilometers into the sea.
"In addition, it constitutes a form of substantial economic leverage vis-a-vis the economy since close to a billion shekels are to be returned directly to Israeli industry in orders for equipment and procurement.”
The signing of the agreement follows diplomatic contacts between Israel and Germany, throughout which the latter agreed to provide the grant for the purchase of the boats, despite tensions between the countries after talks between Israel and the Palestinians faltered. Last year, Haaretz reported that due to the breakdown of the peace talks, the German government had decided not to grant Israel the reduction in the cost of the vessels.
About three years ago, the Israel Navy developed a plan to defend the offshore drilling platforms at a cost of nearly three billion shekels. In addition to the purchase of the four boats, plans call for two unmanned aircraft to be deployed on behalf of the navy, along with detection and intelligence facilities in the area. Hundreds of soldiers will also be deployed to defend the offshore platforms.
A report published last year by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, which examined the protection provided to the drilling platforms, found that the defensive measures were only partially effective, in light of existing threats in the area. Shapira found deficiencies in the work of the headquarters entrusted with protecting the sites.
It was only in June 2013, a year after the military defense plan for the platforms has been approved by the defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, that suggestions for defending the platforms was discussed. The idea at the time was to confer the overall task of protecting Israel’s economic waters to private, nongovernmental entities.
However, according to a summary of the National Security Council’s subsequent discussions on the issue, it was found that the cheapest option was for the navy to carry out that mission.