The first joint Israeli-German cabinet session in the German capital is set to convene on Monday. The Israeli Defense Ministry's desire to buy a sixth Dolphin-class diesel submarine from the Germans is likely to figure on the agenda.

"An Israeli source with knowledge of the talks said that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, who has described the prospect of an Iranian bomb as a mortal danger, wanted to expand the submarine fleet," Reuters reported last week.

The Dolphin submarines are among the most sophisticated and capable conventional submarines in the world, and could be equipped with nuclear missiles.

A spokesman for the Merkel administration confirmed to The Jerusalem Post last week that the Islamic Republic and the Mideast peace process would be the subject of talks between the two governments. A joint-cabinet session had been planned for November, but Netanyahu was ill. On March 17, 2008, bilateral relations were strengthened during the first joint cabinet meeting - eight Israeli ministers and seven German ministers participated. A day later, Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Knesset.

The 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state in 2008 played a role in Germany and Israel's decision to institute the annual cabinet-level meetings. Ministers from both governments will on Monday visit the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe as well as the underground "Place of Information," showing the sites where Europe's Jews were exterminated. Israel's ministers will then meet with their counterparts to discuss economic and military matters.

Israel has acquired three Dolphin submarines with a reported second-strike nuclear capability. The German government provided a subsidy for the earlier Israeli purchases. A Dolphin vessel costs $700 million but the Israel's Defense Ministry received a reduced rate.

The Kiel-based shipping firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft is set to deliver two additional Dolphins in 2012. According to the Reuters report, an Israeli source said, "Five submarines are sufficient, but of course we could use more. Our ideal number would be nine - enough to ensure we have the necessary assets at sea to cover all relevant threats and targets."

Responding to the joint cabinet meeting, Wolfgang Gehrcke, the foreign policy spokesman for the Left Party, the fourth largest party in the Germany parliament, demanded that Israel "abandon its nuclear weapons arsenal."



He justified his criticism by saying it was a product of "solidarity and friendship" for the special German-Israeli relationship. Gehrcke has attended pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah rallies where Israel's destruction was advocated. The Left Party has some of the most openly anti-Israeli positions of the five major parties in the parliament.

Meanwhile, a number of fringe anti-Israeli groups have announced a demonstration near the Federal Chancellor's Officer to protest against the "occupation, settler and war politics" of the Israeli government.

According to German critics, many supporters of the rally invoke language that meets the European Union's definition of anti-Semitism. A telling example from one of the supporter announcements: "Why is a joint cabinet session taking place with a racist, fascist, Zionist ideology?"

President Shimon Peres is slated to visit Berlin later this month and deliver a 25-minute speech in Hebrew on International Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27).

While Merkel is considered to be Israel's staunchest ally in Europe, there has been a growing rift between her administration's support for Israel and the population's aversion for Israel. In early December, the University of Bielefeld released a study showing a spike in Jew-hatred in the Federal Republic and high levels of anti-Israel sentiments across Europe. About 46 percent of Europeans believe "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians."

That is a manifestation of modern anti-Semitism, according to the EU and US State Department definitions, because the Nazi-comparison seeks to strip Israel of its right to exist.

In contrast, Merkel unconditionally supported Israel's Operation Cast Lead and her administration boycotted the anti-Israeli Durban II UN anti-racism conference in Geneva. She has declared Israel's security to be "nonnegotiable," and integral to Germany's national security interests.

Yet the thorny issue of Germany's flouring trade relationship with Iran has raised national security alarm bells in Jerusalem. Annual German-Israeli trade hovers around $5.7 billion and many German firms have been entangled in shipping military technology to Iran for its atomic weapons program. The seizure in mid-December of Siemens turbo compressors destined for Iran, with an estimated value of $23m., was taken notice of by the Israelis. Siemens reportedly used its Swedish subsidiary to transfer the  nuclear weapons equipment to Iran. The turbo compressors can be used for Iran's missiles program.

Also in December, the British Navy confiscated sophisticated computer technology designed for the operation of Iranian nuclear power plants. Siemens sent, according to Der Spiegel, Teleperm computer equipment to China, which was on route to the Kalaye Electric firm in Iran.

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