Joint session will convene amid reports of Jerusalem bid for a sixth Dolphin-class diesel submarine.
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN BERLIThefirst joint Israeli-German cabinet session in the German capital is setto convene on Monday. The Israeli Defense Ministry's desire to buy asixth Dolphin-class diesel submarine from the Germans is likely tofigure on the agenda."An Israeli source with knowledge of thetalks said that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, who has describedthe prospect of an Iranian bomb as a mortal danger, wanted to expandthe submarine fleet," Reuters reported last week.The Dolphinsubmarines are among the most sophisticated and capable conventionalsubmarines in the world, and could be equipped with nuclear missiles.A spokesman for the Merkel administration confirmed to The Jerusalem Postlast week that the Islamic Republic and the Mideast peace process wouldbe the subject of talks between the two governments. A joint-cabinetsession had been planned for November, but Netanyahu was ill. On March17, 2008, bilateral relations were strengthened during the first jointcabinet meeting - eight Israeli ministers and seven German ministersparticipated. A day later, Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed theKnesset.The 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewishstate in 2008 played a role in Germany and Israel's decision toinstitute the annual cabinet-level meetings. Ministers from bothgovernments will on Monday visit the Monument to the Murdered Jews ofEurope as well as the underground "Place of Information," showing thesites where Europe's Jews were exterminated. Israel's ministers willthen meet with their counterparts to discuss economic and militarymatters.Israel has acquired three Dolphin submarines with areported second-strike nuclear capability. The German governmentprovided a subsidy for the earlier Israeli purchases. A Dolphin vesselcosts $700 million but the Israel's Defense Ministry received a reducedrate.The Kiel-based shipping firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werftis set to deliver two additional Dolphins in 2012. According to theReuters report, an Israeli source said, "Five submarines aresufficient, but of course we could use more. Our ideal number would benine - enough to ensure we have the necessary assets at sea to coverall relevant threats and targets."AdvertisementResponding to the jointcabinet meeting, Wolfgang Gehrcke, the foreign policy spokesman for theLeft Party, the fourth largest party in the Germany parliament,demanded that Israel "abandon its nuclear weapons arsenal."Hejustified his criticism by saying it was a product of "solidarity andfriendship" for the special German-Israeli relationship. Gehrcke hasattended pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah rallies where Israel's destructionwas advocated. The Left Party has some of the most openly anti-Israelipositions 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.Accordingto German critics, many supporters of the rally invoke language thatmeets the European Union's definition of anti-Semitism. A tellingexample from one of the supporter announcements: "Why is a jointcabinet session taking place with a racist, fascist, Zionist ideology?"PresidentShimon Peres is slated to visit Berlin later this month and deliver a25-minute speech in Hebrew on International Holocaust Memorial Day(January 27).While Merkel is considered to be Israel'sstaunchest ally in Europe, there has been a growing rift between heradministration's support for Israel and the population's aversion forIsrael. In early December, the University of Bielefeld released a studyshowing a spike in Jew-hatred in the Federal Republic and high levelsof anti-Israel sentiments across Europe. About 46 percent of Europeansbelieve "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against thePalestinians."That is a manifestation of modern anti-Semitism,according to the EU and US State Department definitions, because theNazi-comparison seeks to strip Israel of its right to exist.Incontrast, Merkel unconditionally supported Israel's Operation Cast Leadand her administration boycotted the anti-Israeli Durban II UNanti-racism conference in Geneva. She has declared Israel's security tobe "nonnegotiable," and integral to Germany's national securityinterests.Yet the thorny issue of Germany's flouring traderelationship with Iran has raised national security alarm bells inJerusalem. Annual German-Israeli trade hovers around $5.7 billion andmany German firms have been entangled in shipping military technologyto Iran for its atomic weapons program. The seizure in mid-December ofSiemens turbo compressors destined for Iran, with an estimated value of$23m., was taken notice of by the Israelis. Siemens reportedly used itsSwedish subsidiary to transfer the nuclear weapons equipment to Iran.The turbo compressors can be used for Iran's missiles program.Alsoin December, the British Navy confiscated sophisticated computertechnology 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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