Evaluating the Answer of the German Government to an Inquiry into German-Israeli Military Cooperation
“German-Israeli military cooperation is closer than many Germans realise,” wrote Die Welt in August 2021. Indeed, no other country enjoys such close military cooperation with the German Government than Israel, and it has been that way for decades.
In light of the new escalation of violence, including the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere, and the attacks on Gaza in May 2021, I requested information regarding the state and development of German-Israeli military cooperation via a parliamentary Minor Inquiry procedure. Here I document the extent of that military cooperation.
The German Federal Government maintains continuous armaments cooperation with the Israeli government. In the federal budget, taxpayer funds are regularly set aside for “procurement of defence systems for Israel.” In 2020, this amounted to 45 million Euros. This is not a loan, but a non-repayable donation, and is essentially a disguised subsidy of the German weapons industry. According to the German Federal Government, 13,973,665 Euros worth of weapons exports to Israel were approved between the 1st of January and the 7th of July 2021. In 2020, the Government approved 582,405,816 Euros worth of weapons exports to Israel. This makes Israel, after Hungary and Egypt, one of the top buyers of German weapons.
In its response to my Minor Inquiry, the German Government admits that it approved exports of tear gas (PAVA) and “portable application equipment for incapacitating or irritating chemical substances” to Israel. The Government did not report on the quantities of these exports. Although pepper spray is subject to export controls, German corporations make a significant profit from exporting pepper spray and the containers required for its deployment. Israeli security forces are known to frequently deploy pepper spray against peaceful demonstrators, particularly Palestinians. The deployment of pepper spray against gatherings and protests constitutes a violation of human rights. It ought to be forbidden, along with its exportation.
According to the Global Militarisation Index 2020, Israel is the most militarised country on earth. In 2019 Israel was the eighth largest exporter of weapons worldwide. When it comes to drones, Israel is a global leader. The occupation and constant fighting against Palestinians supports this marketisation. It enables Israeli weapons developers to market their weapons as “combat tested.” The Israeli military’s 2021 operation “Guardian of the Walls” saw the large-scale deployment of unmanned drones in attacks on the Gaza Strip.
From the 13th to the 22nd of July in 2021, just a few weeks after the attacks on Gaza, the German Military took part in the drone exercise “Blue Guardian” in Israel. They joined together with French, Italian, US-American and British military forces. This was the largest-ever international drone warfare exercise. Reporting on the exercise, Die Welt wrote, “the Israeli Army leads the world in the deployment of drones. Now the NATO states want to learn from Israel how to coordinate multiple air-borne drones in a single operation, to support ground troops and to detect and destroy enemy targets on the battlefield.”
The German Government is particularly interested in Israel’s “combat tested” Heron drones. For years, Germany has deployed unarmed Heron-1 drones in Afghanistan and, more recently, in Mali. In 2018, the Germany signed a contract with Airbus for the lease of five weapons-compatible Heron TP drones. From the Government’s response to my Minor Inquiry, it is clear that these five Heron-TP combat drones will be made available to the Israeli military base Tel Nof from the 30th of October 2021. Since 2019, German soldiers have received training from the Israeli Air Force in the use of unarmed Heron TP drones. The Israeli Air Force uses Tel Nof as a launching base for drone incursions into the Gaza Strip.
According to Defence Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the goal of these exercises are that German and Israeli combat forces “not only cooperate as military partners, but also become ‘interoperable’, in other words, that our combat forces work together.” German-Israeli military cooperation also entails shared training components. From 2014 to July 2021, German soldiers participated in 23 exercises in Israel, with Israeli forces participating in 37 exercises in Germany.
In addition, German agencies carry out research together with Israel on seven military-relevant projects. The Federal Government declined to provide further information, citing Israel’s “special security needs.” Here we again see a tight interlocking of the German state with the Israeli military sector.
Through subsidised weapons exports, state-financed weapons research and military training, the German Government places itself firmly on the side of the Israeli Government, irrespective of its repression of the Palestinian population of Israel and the Occupied Territories. We in ‘Die Linke’ reject this occupation and repression. We stand always on the side of the oppressed, not of those who practice repression and occupation.
‘Die Linke’ is against all weapons exports. This applies particularly to crisis areas and war zones in the Middle East and West Asia. The German Government must stop its weapons exports to Israel. Goods listed in Appendix III of the Anti-Torture Decree should not be exported. The provision of taxpayer funds for the armament of Israel and for Israeli military research must end. ‘Die Linke’ says No to weapons-compatible drones and thereby to drone cooperation with Israel.
Christine Buchholz was a ‘Die Linke’ MP until the recent elections. This article first appeared in German on her website. Reproduced with permission. Translation: Tim Redfern