A recent report said Israel intends to field nuclear-armed Dolphin-class submarines along the Iranian coastline, the Xinhua News Agency reported Monday (see GSN, July 8).
Experts widely suspect Israel of arming the German-made submarines with nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, but Jerusalem has neither confirmed nor denied its possession of an atomic arsenal.
"Submarines are very important to Israel. There are rumors overseas that they are equipped for nuclear second strikes but I don't think anyone intelligent can tell you any more than that," said Dan Schueftan, head of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University in Israel.
Germany provided Israel with three Dolphin-class vessels between 1998 and 2000, and is set to deliver at least two more within the next two years. There are reports that Jerusalem is trying to knock down the price on a sixth submarine, according to Xinhua (see GSN, Jan. 19).
"Israel has never spoken about the role of its submarines, whether they are for patrol or attack missions, but internationally they are thought as being part of Israel's deterrence," said Yiftah Shapir, who heads the Military Balance Project at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.
"From my perspective it doesn't matter what their role is. As soon as it's believed to be one or the other then that's what counts," Shapir said (David Harris, Xinhua News Agency, July 26).
Israel yesterday denied it was in talks with Germany over buying a sixth submarine, United Press International reported.
"Following press reports, we wish to clarify that there are no negotiations with Germany for the purchase by Israel of an additional submarine," the Israeli Defense Ministry statement said in a prepared statement. "The question of a discount (by Germany) for such an acquisition is therefore not relevant."
German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said "no concrete negotiations between Israel and Germany about a sixth submarine" were occurring. However, he declined to specify whether less official talks had taken place or whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had discussed the matter during a recent telephone conversation (United Press International, July 28).