PM to revive bid for discounted German submarine

On upcoming trip to Germany, Netanyahu plans to lobby Berlin for sixth Dolphin-class naval vessel to raise deterrence.

By REUTERS
April 6, 2011 13:21
2 minute read.
The Dolphin Submarine.

The Dolphin Submarine.. (photo credit: IDF)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who travels to Germany on Wednesday, will lobby Berlin to sell Israel a sixth naval submarine at deep discount, an official said.

Talks on the Dolphin submarine 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 $700 million price for the new Dolphin.

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"We're still hoping for a discount, and the prime minister will raise this matter" in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled for Thursday, the Israeli official said without elaborating.

Political turbulence in the Middle East has led Israel to float higher defense spending, which may allow it to absorb more of the cost of a new Dolphin. The diesel-powered 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 in the next two years.

Germany is dedicated to the security of the Jewish state, founded in the wake of the Holocaust. Merkel has championed an international campaign to rein in Iran's contentious nuclear program, which Israelis consider a potentially mortal threat.

But Berlin has budgetary constraints and in the past heard misgivings from German opposition parties about exporting weapons to crisis areas. Israel is reputed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, including submarine-fired nuclear missiles.

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Netanyahu's agenda in Germany will also include trying to curb Palestinian efforts to garner European support for a unilateral declaration of statehood in West Bank land occupied by Israel.

Officials say such a move would circumvent peace negotiations, though these talks have broken down over the issue of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinians say construction must stop, a demand refused by Netanyahu.

Israeli media say Merkel lambasted Netanyahu earlier this year when he phoned to complain that Germany had backed a UN Security Council vote criticizing the settlements.

She was reported as saying she was very disappointed that Netanyahu had not done more to promote peace initiatives.

After his brief visit to Germany, Netanyahu will travel for talks to the Czech Republic, which is seen as one of Israel's closest European allies.

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