BERLIN – Diplomatic fissures between Israel and Germany over Berlin’s pro-Iran
trade and bank policies, peace talks with the Palestinians, and Germany’s
endorsement of an anti-Israel UN resolution will animate Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s meeting on Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
first Berlin-based meeting of 2011 between the two leaders will also involve a
request by Netanyahu to acquire a sixth German-made Dolphin-class submarine to
ratchet up Israel’s security against rising threats in the
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Netanyahu will ask the Merkel administration to sell Israel a
sixth submarine at deep discount, an official said. Talks on the Dolphin deal
stalled last year after the Germans declined to underwrite it, as they had done
with previous purchases. Israel sought up to a third off the $500
million-to-$700m. price for the new vessel.
“We’re still hoping for a
discount, and the prime minister will raise this matter” in his meeting with
Merkel, an Israeli official said without elaborating.
submarines are widely regarded as an Israeli vanguard against foes like Iran.
Israel has three Dolphins in service, and two on order from Germany with
delivery expected within two years.
The sale of a reduced fee Dolphin
submarine – a vessel that could have second-strike nuclear capability – would
certainly help compensate for a series of German diplomatic and legislative
moves that have, at the very least, not served Israel’s security
Last year, for instance, Merkel stood by as members of her
governing coalition voted unanimously in the Bundestag to smack Israel with a
resolution for “violating the principle of proportionality” by employing
self-defense measures against the radical activists aboard the Mavi
Merkel’s stance on the resolution – which blasted a naval
interception that was deemed vital by Israel to prevent a violation of its
blockade of Gaza – was regarded by some as undermining her pledge to the Knesset
in 2008 that the Jewish state’s security interests are integral to Germany’s
Furthermore, WikiLeaks revealed that Christoph
Heusgen, Merkel’s main Mideast adviser, attempted in 2009 to spur the Americans
in the UN to use the anti- Israel Goldstone Report as a bludgeon to force
Jerusalem to freeze construction of settlements. Both the Merkel administration
and the German Foreign Ministry declined at a press conference earlier this week
in Berlin to backpedal from their seeming endorsement of the Goldstone
Andreas Peschke, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, deferred
Goldstone’s recent “reconsideration” of his report’s key accusation – he
indicated in a Washington Post op-ed last week that he no longer believed Israel
deliberately sought to kill Gaza civilians – to the UN Human Right Council in
Geneva, and refused to provide an assessment of Goldstone’s reversal. While
Goldstone wrote that the HRC was biased against Israel, Peschke expressed
confidence that the HRC would deal with Goldstone’s dramatic shift in a
Ahead of the arrival in Berlin late Wednesday of
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, competing German and Israeli
narratives were playing out. In the German version, Israel had sought the visits
to sort out the diplomatic mess between the two countries over how to advance
Israel-Palestinian peace efforts.
A Merkel administration spokeswoman
wrote The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Wednesday that an “informal meeting” would
take place between Netanyahu and Merkel. She also noted that Israel’s government
had requested the parley. Merkel chastised Netanyahu in February for failing to
rekindle peace talks, which ostensibly triggered efforts by Israel to mend the
fissure with Berlin. Thus the German narrative.
According to sources
close to the Netanyahu administration, by contrast, there is no need for
fence-mending and the reports Israeli-German disputes – leaked by a German
source – are inaccurate.
Any talk of blame for the deadlocked peace
process has been overshadowed, however, by headlines in Germany’s leading
business publication regarding Germany’s financial relations with Iran – at the
reported price of destabilizing the security of Israel, the West and the
Consequently, it might be that Germany – with its roughly 4
billion euro annual trade relationship with Iran – is on the defensive in these
talks, rather than Israel.
Though the initial list of talking points for
Merkel and Netanyahu did not include the Islamic Republic, the Jerusalem Post
has learned that the “implementation of Iran sanctions” is now on the
Merkel’s government has been under fire from the United States
for its weak adherence to – and at times nonenforcement – of Iran
In the span of a week, a series of hard-hitting investigative
reports in Germany’s main business daily Handelsblatt revealed that Foreign
Minister Guido Westerwelle worked with Germany’s central bank (the Bundesbank)
to pump billions of euros into Iran’s coffers.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry
cooperated with the USsanctioned, Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank
(EIH) via the Bundesbank to process Indian crude oil payments. In short,
Israel’s so-called “special” partner in Europe reportedly circumvented US
sanctions against Iran. Merkel is said to have intervened on Wednesday to turn
the screws on future EIH-Bundesbank Iranian crude oil payments.
funds have swollen the financial pockets of Iran’s regime, allowing it to
advance its military and nuclear programs. And the desperately needed capital
spells a new financial windfall for Iran to use to support its proxies, Hamas
and Hezbollah. All of this helps explain why Yinam Cohen, Israel’s spokesman at
its embassy in Berlin, was quoted on the front page of the Handelsblatt on
Tuesday calling for the closure of the EIH.
Merkel has steadfastly
refused to shut down EIH, which is arguably Iran’s most important financial
institution on the European continent for its nuclear and missile programs. The
US Treasury Department’s anti-terror unit sanctioned the EIH because of its role
in Iran’s military and nuclear apparatus.
German-Israeli relations have
also been strained since the Merkel administration aligned its government with a
Lebanon-sponsored UN Security Council resolution in February, condemning
Israel’s settlement construction. The Israel Embassy in Berlin was reportedly
sent a strong assurance from the German government that it would oppose the
resolution. Germany reneged, prompting Netanyahu to articulate his
disappointment with the chancellor in a late-February phone call. She reportedly
fired back that he was the one who had disappointed her by failing to take “a
single step to advance peace.”
Reuters contributed to this report.