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A Historic Turning Point

By any standard, this was not just another humdrum arms deal. It was, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly noted a few days ago, “a historic turning point” in Israel’s bilateral relations with Germany.

He was referring to an announcement by Israel’s Ministry of Defence on August 17 disclosing that the United States had approved the sale of the Arrow 3 to Germany. Washington’s approval was necessary because the Arrow 3, Israel’s most advanced long-range missile defence system, was jointly developed by the Israel Missile Defence Organization and the United States Defence Agency.

The landmark agreement, worth $3.5 billion, is the largest in the history of Israel’s burgeoning arms industry, which last year chalked up record sales of $12.5 billion.

Beyond the issue of dollars and cents, this transaction is of historic importance, as Netanyahu pointed out.

“Seventy five years ago, the Jewish people were crushed to ashes in Nazi Germany,” he said. “Seventy five years later, the Jewish state gives Germany, another Germany, tools to defend itself.”

Hewing to this theme, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, “It is particularly meaningful to every Jewish person that Germany is acquiring Israeli defence capabilities.”

Ron Prosor

This point was also underscored by Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, whose family settled in Mandate Palestine in the 1930s after fleeing persecution in Germany. “Think about it,” he told a reporter. Nearly eight decades after the Holocaust, “Israel is becoming a country that will protect Germany from ballistic threats.”

It is truly a remarkable development.

Who could have foreseen in 1945, or even decades later, that Israel would supply Germany with high-tech weapons to defend its air space?

One never knows what lies around the corner.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as well as its continuing ┬ámissile and drone bombardments of Ukrainian cities, have generated legitimate fears in Europe about Russian intentions. Russia’a aggression was understandably regarded as a game changer in Western and Central European capitals. The fighting in Ukraine has also prompted Germany to increase its defence budget.

Germany has expressed an interest in the Arrow 3 since at least 2020. The German government decided to buy the Arrow 3 because it is highly effective, being capable of destroying enemy missiles from a distance of up to 2,400 kilometres. Furthermore, the Arrow 3, which is produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, is about one third cheaper than similar missile systems manufactured in the United States and Europe.

This past April, Netanyahu discussed the deal with German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz.

Olaf Scholtz and Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference this past spring

In the next few weeks, the German government will transfer to Israel a downpayment of $600 million. A final contract is expected to be signed by the end of this year. Once it is officially green lighted by the Knesset and the Bundestag, the manufacturing process can begin. Germany is likely to take delivery of the Arrow 3 in the last quarter of 2025.

The sale of the Arrow 3 is by no means the first arms deal between Israel and Germany. They have bought each other’s military equipment for years now. Lest it be forgotten, Israel secretly purchased U.S. tanks from West Germany before the 1967 Six Day War.

Nevertheless, the Arrow 3 deal is historically and economically significant. It will elevate Israel’s special relationship with Germany, a key and enduring ally, to a new and unprecedented level, and it will contribute mightily to Israel’s economic wellbeing and stability.