Israel, Germany to expand bilateral defense and industrial cooperation

Berlin has increased its defense budget and has set up special fund to upgrade its armed forces

 A German and an Israeli flag are pictured in front of the warship "Atzmaut" (Independence, in Hebrew), built by a German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), during a handover ceremony, in Kiel, Germany July 27, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/FABIAN BIMMER)
A German and an Israeli flag are pictured in front of the warship "Atzmaut" (Independence, in Hebrew), built by a German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), during a handover ceremony, in Kiel, Germany July 27, 2021.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed ways to expand bilateral ties with his German counterpart on Thursday.

Posting on Twitter, Gantz said that he spoke with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht “about the international effort to support Ukraine and its citizens. We also discussed ways to expand bilateral defense and industrial cooperation and agreed to meet soon in Israel.”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany increased its defense budget to two percent of the GDP and said it would set up a special fund of €100 billion ($108b.) in order to swiftly upgrade its armed forces.

As part of that, Reuters reported that the German Air Force will reportedly get €40b., €27b. of which will be spent on upgrading command and control capabilities. In addition, the army will get €17b. and the navy will receive €10b.

It is understood that Israel will play a key role in helping Germany’s force buildup.

A leader in defense, the world has for many years looked to the Jewish state for security and intelligence. Israel’s defense industry has leading international companies exporting to countries across the globe.

Israel’s military exports brought in $11.2b. last year, the largest distribution of Israeli defense exports being in Europe with 41%, up from 30% in 2020.

At the beginning of the month,  the head of the German Air Force  Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, told The Jerusalem Post that Berlin won approval from Jerusalem and Washington to purchase the Arrow 3 missile defense system.

German legislators have pushed to buy Israel’s Iron Dome system to ward off aerial threats, and Gerhartz told the Post that the Arrow-3 is the most relevant system for the threats facing the European nation.

The Arrow-3, one of Israel’s most advanced air defense systems, is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes of over 100 km. and with a reported range of up to 2,400 km. Should Germany buy the system, it would mark the first time that it has been sold to another country.

“The Iron Dome is used for short-range threats and we have quite a capable industry back home, and we will procure systems for that,” said Gerhartz, who was in Israel to attend the change of command ceremony of the Israel Air Force. “And for higher interceptors, we have the Patriot weapons system that we will modernize.

But “if it means [threats at a range of] 15,000 meters [which] is exoatmospheric, [over 130 km. high] we don’t have anything – and that is why I had a close look at the Arrow 3 and we are really interested in the system.”

The purchase of the system, which has been pushed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, “starts with the approval of Israel and the United States and they gave us the approval – that we can cooperate on it,” Gerhartz said. “But, we still have to talk about the details.”

Israeli defense industries have in recent years tried to sell Israel’s high-quality combat-proven missile defense systems abroad with the government’s permission.

Also during the Thursday call, Gantz said that he and Lambrecht discussed the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and “the critical need to address the issues of inspection, production of centrifuges and sunset,” adding that “I emphasized that Israel will support its partners while preparing to defend itself against any possible threat.”

Western countries are trying to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and save the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which crumbled after the Trump administration left the deal in 2018.

Iran has vastly expanded its nuclear work since then. While Tehran is not yet enriching uranium to weapons-grade material at 90% purity, larger quantities of uranium enriched to a lower purity can be enough for a bomb. Jerusalem’s assessment is that Iran is close to having a significant quantity of uranium enriched to 60%.

Speaking to The Washington Institute, Gantz warned that if a new deal is not reached, Israel will activate Plan B “immediately.”

“If there is not a deal we will have to move to Plan B,” he said. “We must make sure we are increasing our intelligence cooperation and create an intelligence coalition that operates against Iran and compensates for a lack of inspection capabilities.”