Der Spiegel reports: Research SPIEGEL has conducted in Germany, Israel and the United States, among current and past government ministers, military officials, defense engineers and intelligence agents, no longer leaves any room for doubt: With the help of German maritime technology, Israel has managed to create for itself a floating nuclear weapon arsenal: submarines equipped with nuclear capability.
Foreign journalists have never boarded one of the combat vessels before. In an unaccustomed display of openness, senior politicians and military officials with the Jewish state were, however, now willing to talk about the importance of German-Israeli military cooperation and Germany’s role, albeit usually under the condition of anonymity. “In the end, it’s very simple,” says Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “Germany is helping to defend Israel’s security. The Germans can be proud of the fact that they have secured the existence of the State of Israel for many years to come.”
On the other hand, any research that did take place in Israel was subject to censorship. Quotes by Israelis, as well as the photographer’s pictures, had to be submitted to the military. Questions about Israel’s nuclear capability, whether on land or on water, were taboo. And decks 2 and 3, where the weapons are kept, remained off-limits to the visitors.
In Germany, the government’s military assistance for Israel’s submarine program has been controversial for about 25 years, a topic of discussion for the media and the parliament. Chancellor Angela Merkel fears the kind of public debate that German Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass recently reignited with a poem critical of Israel. Merkel insists on secrecy and doesn’t want the details of the deal to be made public. To this day, the German government is sticking to its position that it does not know anything about an Israeli nuclear weapons program.
But now, former top German officials have admitted to the nuclear dimension for the first time. “I assumed from the very beginning that the submarines were supposed to be nuclear-capable,” says Hans Rühle, the head of the planning staff at the German Defense Ministry in the late 1980s. Lothar Rühl, a former state secretary in the Defense Ministry, says that he never doubted that “Israel stationed nuclear weapons on the ships.” And Wolfgang Ruppelt, the director of arms procurement at the Defense Ministry during the key phase, admits that it was immediately clear to him that the Israelis wanted the ships “as carriers for weapons of the sort that a small country like Israel cannot station on land.” Top German officials speaking under the protection of anonymity were even more forthcoming. “From the beginning, the boats were primarily used for the purposes of nuclear capability,” says one ministry official with knowledge of the matter.
Insiders say that the Israeli defense technology company Rafael built the missiles for the nuclear weapons option. Apparently it involves a further development of cruise missiles of the Popeye Turbo SLCM type, which are supposed to have a range of around 1,500 kilometers (940 miles) and which could reach Iran with a warhead weighing up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
Armed with nuclear weapons, the submarines are a signal to any enemy that the Jewish state itself would not be totally defenseless in the event of a nuclear attack, but could strike back with the ultimate weapon of retaliation. The submarines are “a way of guaranteeing that the enemy will not be tempted to strike pre-emptively with non-conventional weapons and get away scot-free,” as Israeli Admiral Avraham Botzer puts it.
In this version of tit-for-tat, known as nuclear second-strike capability, hundreds of thousands of dead are avenged with an equally large number of casualties. It is a strategy the United States and Russia practiced during the Cold War by constantly keeping part of its nuclear arsenal ready on submarines. For Israel, a country about the size of the German state of Hesse, which could be wiped out with a nuclear strike, safeguarding this threat potential is vital to its very existence. At the same time, the nuclear arsenal causes countries like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to regard Israel’s nuclear capacity with fear and envy and consider building their own nuclear weapons.
This makes the question of its global political responsibility all the more relevant for Germany. Should Germany, the country of the perpetrators, be allowed to assist Israel, the land of the victims, in the development of a nuclear weapons arsenal capable of extinguishing hundreds of thousands of human lives?
Is Berlin recklessly promoting an arms race in the Middle East? Or should Germany, as its historic obligation stemming from the crimes of the Nazis, assume a responsibility that has become “part of Germany’s reason of state,” as Chancellor Merkel said in a speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in March 2008? “It means that for me, as a German chancellor, Israel’s security is never negotiable,” Merkel told the lawmakers. [Continue reading…]
The BBC adds: The former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said he was unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement in 2008 that Germany bore responsibility for the security of the state of Israel.
Rather, Mr Schmidt said, “Germany has a special responsibility to ensure that such crimes as occurred in the Holocaust never occur again. But Germany has no responsibility for Israel.”