Head of German SPD voices support for arms sales to Israel

Foreign Ministry apologizes for anti-Qatar remarks by other minister.

October 12, 2014 01:00
2 minute read.
Israel navy

Israel’s fourth submarine is en route to the navy's Haifa base from Germany. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

BERLIN – Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and the country’s economic minister, voiced his support on Wednesday for weapons deliveries to Israel.

According to a report on the German n-tv news website, Gabriel said deliveries to Israel are generally not problematic as long as it is determined that the systems cannot be applied to outlawed munitions under international law.

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N-tv reported that Gabriel’s comment about illicit armaments referred to submarines, which could be armed with nuclear weapons. Israel has purchased four advanced Dolphin-class submarines from Germany.

Gabriel delivered his remarks in the context of a speech at a Berlin think tank about the need for transparency with respect to German military deals.

Gabriel’s Social Democratic Party is Chancellor Merkel’s coalition partner in her government.

The Jerusalem Post learned from participants at the September World Jewish Congress event in Berlin that attendees questioned Gabriel about his party’s vice president, Ralf Stegner, who in the summer called for an embargo of German weapons deliveries to Israel. Gabriel rebuked Stegner, saying Stegner does not speak for the SPD on the matter.

Attendees criticized Gabriel for describing Israel in 2012 as an “Apartheid regime.”

He was asked at the event why the SPD’s former general-secretary, Andrea Nahles, declared “shared values” between the Palestinian Fatah party and the SPD.

Gabriel was silent about German weapons deliveries to Algeria and Qatar. In August, according to Reuters, German Development Minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar of funding Islamic State militants.

“This kind of conflict, this kind of a crisis always has a history ... The ISIS troops, the weapons – these are lost sons, with some of them from Iraq,” Mueller told German public broadcaster ZDF. He added, “You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?” Mueller is a member of the Christian Social Union party – the sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry apologized for Mueller’s anti-Qatar remarks. Ministry spokesman Martin Schafer said, “If there were misunderstandings, then we regret this.”

The Gulf monarchy Qatar, which lodges Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in a five-star hotel, has invested billions of dollars in German companies.

Germany, along with the EU, recognize Hamas as a terrorist entity.

Gabriel defended weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia, included patrol boats and rockets. He said the delivery of leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia is more “difficult.”

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