Germany cancels billion-dollar Israeli drone deal

Germany withdraws from billion-dollar drone deal with Israel due to its offensive capabilities

Germany cancelled a billion-dollar drone leasing deal with Israel due to the advanced Heron-2 drones’ offensive capabilities. The decision comes one week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, the Socialist Democratic Party (SPD), threatened to undermine the deal of leasing sophisticated drones from Israel Aerospace Industries. German parliament members voiced disappointment after learning Heron or “Eitan” drones have offensive capabilities.

Last year, when the deal was made public, Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen embraced the fact that the Israeli drones can be armed, saying that “it is important for the protection of soldiers.” However, the German SPD Party, which sank the deal, is ideologically opposed to preemptive targeted drone strikes.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Israeli daily paper Yedioth Ahronoth, one SPD member said that “We would have happily had the drones leased for intelligence missions from the IAI. What a shame.” Germany is currently operating Israeli Heron-1 drones for reconnaissance purposes only.

Germany and Israel have enjoyed long and close military and intelligence cooperation. For years, Berlin was seen as one of Jerusalem’s closest allies in Europe. However, German-Israeli ties have lately deteriorated due to Germany’s increasingly vocal opposition to the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

During a visit to Israel in April, Germany’s controversial Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel refused to cancel a planned meeting with NGOs considered hostile to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently cancelled his scheduled meeting with Gabriel.

Gabriel was also criticized by Jewish groups and historians for comparing Social Democratic victims of Nazism to Jewish Holocaust victims.

Last week, the strained German-Israeli relations deteriorated even further when the German Foreign Ministry questioned Israel’s democracy and compared the Jewish State to non-democratic states like Russia and China. The German remarks were made in the context of Berlin’s opposition to Jerusalem’s NGO transparency law. The relationship between Germany and Israel is further complicated by the fact that Berlin has emerged as a major financial backer of NGOs considered hostile towards the Jewish state.

By: Daniel Krygier, World Israel News