Neither German nor Israeli officials have commented on the story, but experts see it as an open secret. The fact that Berlin is not even denying it has led the political opposition and commentators to re-open the debate on the character of German-Israeli relations.
“The submarines are a vital addition to our national security,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told German tabloid Bild in an interview on June 5. “They are an affirmation of Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security.”
“Of course the German government never asked what would happen to these subs,” says Karsten Voigt, a former Social Democrat member of parliament and government coordinator for US-German relations. “The worst thing would have been if the Israelis had said the truth – any German government would have had a hard time defending itself.”
There is no lack of critics. Günter Grass, a Nobel-Prize-winning German author, found himself at the center of an international scandal when he published a poem a few weeks ago in which he defended Iran against the threat of a military strike by Israel and asked the – rhetorical – question of whether Germany should be part of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
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