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(photo credit: AP [file])
The revelation in Wednesday's Jerusalem Post that Israel has purchased two more Dolphin-class submarines from Germany was welcome news. Israelis will be able to sleep better once these impressive machines are slicing silently through the dangerous waters far from our shores.
Added to the three other submarines of their class already in service with the navy, the newcomers will greatly enhance the long-range capabilities of our increasingly formidable sea defenses. The first three vessels - the INS Dolphin, INS Leviatan and INS Tekuma, ushered into Haifa Bay in 1999 and 2000 - are significantly larger than Israel's 30-year-old Gal-class submarines, significantly more advanced and significantly better armed. These new additions, scheduled to arrive within two years, are even more so.
The new model, dubbed the U212, has a range of 4,500 kilometers and includes ultramodern technology that allows it to remain submerged for far longer periods than even the earlier Dolphins can attain. It carries highly advanced electronics systems from German and Israeli manufacturers and has been designed with specific Israeli needs in mind. An option that remains in the U212, according to Jane's Defense Weekly, is the fitting of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, expanding the Jewish state's so-called second-strike capability.
That this last detail is even necessary, and is actually of extreme practical concern, is one of the most unfortunate realities of Israel's situation in the world. Threats like those from the extremist regime of Iran, however, make it imperative that Israel have such a capability.
Between its calls to "wipe Israel off the map" and its obvious efforts to build its own nuclear weapons, the danger that Iran poses to the Jewish state is immensely alarming.
In response to Iran's continued insistence on enriching uranium, even should it agree to negotiate over its nuclear ambitions, Germany has let it be known that Teheran's goals are transparent. As the German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, "[Our] demand to suspend enrichment has its cause in the fact that Iran clearly has lost the confidence of the international community that its nuclear program is civilian."
That Germany is steadfastly opposing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, while at the same time building advanced submarines for Israel, is profoundly important - for the future, and because of the past.
Israel's connection to the Dolphin submarines dates back to the late 1980s, when they were still in development. By the end of 1990, negotiations were broken off because of Israeli budgetary constraints.
But during the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein fired at Israel several dozen Scud missiles - missiles capable of carrying chemical weapons, allegedly developed by Germany. Should he have successfully delivered such weapons to our population centers, they surely would have caused horrific casualties.
At the time, chancellor Helmut Kohl, cognizant of his country's historical burden for the Holocaust, agreed to give Israel two of the $350 million submarines as a gift. Later, Germany offered a third ship at half the cost.
In this new deal, Germany is financing one third of the $1.3 billion total cost.
The stance of the German government underlines a radical transformation for that country's people. While their grandparents' generation perpetrated the Holocaust, and the previous generation paid for the Holocaust with reparations to its victims, the current generation is helping prevent a second Holocaust by providing the IDF with some of the most important defensive weapons systems in its arsenal. As far as corrective steps go, that's a huge one.
The Iranian threat to Israel today, of course, is many times more horrible than the one posed by Saddam Hussein over 15 years ago. While Israel ultimately must take responsibility for its own defense, it is crucial that it have friends in the international community who are prepared to help. In this case, Germany has proved that it is a significant such friend.