President Barack Obama’s deputies are negotiating a $1 billion aid package with Egypt’s new Islamist government, even as Egypt’s cash-strapped military revealed that it is trying to buy $1 billion worth of German submarines that could threat Israel’s fast-growing offshore energy projects.
The Islamist government recently won promises of aid from Arab countries, and hopes to complete the $1 billion loan-forgiveness deal with Obama’s deputies by the end of the year.
The submarine controversy began Sept. 31 when Egypt’s leading newspaper, Al-Ahram, reported that the country’s chief naval officer, Osama al-Gindi, said “We have agreed to a deal with Germany to procure two submarines of the latest 209 Class.”
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government declined to comment on the article, saying only: “There has been no change in the German government’s position towards Israel, in the commitment the German government feels towards Israel’s security.”
But he declined to comment on the supposed deal, saying the government maintained secrecy concerning matters dealt with by the Federal Security Council, a government committee that decides on sensitive weapons export deals.
Israeli newspaper Jediot Achronot reported that ties between Israel and Germany had dramatically deteriorated because of the deal.
A German weapons sale to Egypt could be seen in Israel as running counter to Germany’s commitment to protecting the state of Israel — a cornerstone of German foreign policy due to the Holocaust.
The Israeli government declined to comment on the article.
For the role of the United States, the U.S. State Department has also refused to comment.
The Type 209 submarines can stay underwater for lengthy periods, are sufficiently quiet to elude easy detection and can launch attacks without being identified. They can carry 14 torpedoes, mines or missiles that can sink ships or destroy oil rigs.
Israel has already bought six of the U-boats to protect its trade routes from future attack by any of the many Muslim-majority states around the Mediterranean Sea.