Germany is Israel's second largest arms supplier, according to a new study. In the weeks following October 7, 2023, exports increased dramatically.

Joav Galant (M), Israel's Defense Minister, visits Solats in the northern Gaza Strip

Germany is one of the most important foreign suppliers of weapons to the Israeli army. Photo: Ariel Hermoni Israel Mod/dpa

SEDAN taz | It is well known that Germany is a close partner of Israel. What is less known is how extensive military cooperation is between the two states. Forensis, the German sister organization of the British research agency Forensic Architecture, investigated this question. On Friday he presented the results of his research to the public. As its report shows, Germany is Israel's second largest arms supplier.

Last year, the Federal Republic was responsible for 47 percent of all Israeli weapons imports, close behind the United States at 53 percent. This is clear from data from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The figure includes the delivery of two Sa'ar 6 class warships, as well as missiles and tank engines. Over a longer period of five years, between 2019 and 2023, deliveries from Germany accounted for 30 percent of all arms imports, while 69 percent came from the United States. At least some of these weapons are also used in Gaza.

“Israel has its own arms industry, but it depends on imports,” architect and Forensis employee Dimitra Andritsou said Friday. For his report, Forensis researchers used publicly available sources on past and current export permits and deliveries of weapons and military equipment from Germany to Israel. Since data on arms exports is often irregular and incomplete and the German arms export report for 2023 has not yet been published, this is an approximation.

However, it is clear that Germany is one of the most important foreign arms suppliers to the Israeli military, and German arms exports have generally been approved without restrictions in recent years, despite the ongoing Israeli occupation of the territories. Palestinians and several controversial military offensives by the Israelis. Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.

Since 2003, Germany has issued 4,427 individual permits for arms exports to Israel, worth a total of around 3.3 billion euros. This is clear from the federal government's annual reports on arms exports. Only 54 export permits were rejected, representing an approval rate of 99.75%. For twenty years, Germany has consistently ranked second, and in some years even first, when it comes to Israel's total imports of larger conventional weapons.

Sharp increase

In the last five years alone, between 2019 and 2023, Germany has approved exports of military equipment to Israel worth more than 1.1 billion euros, of which almost half were weapons of war. The figures for actual exports of war weapons during this period were redacted by the federal government in the relevant reports, so they are an estimate.

In 2023, the total value of approved arms exports rose sharply to €326.5 million, about ten times more than in 2022. The majority of these exports were approved in the second half of 2023, mainly since the terrorist attack from Hamas to Israel and the withdrawal of the army. first counterattacks in October. If approvals for large warships (submarines and corvettes) are excluded, then the federal government will have approved more weapons exports in 2023 than at any time in the last twenty years, researchers say.

Last November, the Financial Times reported that the German government had created a working group between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Export Control Office to speed up the processing of applications for Israeli weapons.

And although the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has steadily deteriorated for months and Israel's conduct of the war has come under increasing criticism, the federal government has continued to issue export licenses for military equipment and weapons of war to Israel. It cannot yet be conclusively assessed whether the scope of approvals in the first months of this year will be similar to that at the end of 2023.

In action in Gaza

German weapons are also used in Gaza. As an example of this, Forensis researcher Dimitra Andritsou on Friday cited the Matador brand rocket-propelled grenades, manufactured by the company “Dynamit Nobel Defense” in Burbach, North Rhine-Westphalia. German Sa'ar corvettes from Kiel, in turn, would be used to maintain the naval blockade off Gaza and fire rockets at ground targets, as shown in Israeli army footage.

Another example is the German-made diesel engines that are used, among others, in the Israeli Merkava 4 tanks. These are also used in Gaza.

Berlin lawyers have filed an urgent application with the Berlin Administrative Court to stop German arms exports to Israel. It is enough to assume that these weapons are used to commit violations of international law, said Berlin lawyer Ahmed Abed on Friday in Berlin. The nine-member legal group to which he belongs invokes the War Weapons Control Law.

Lawyers believe that with its arms deliveries, Germany is also violating international agreements such as the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Geneva Convention, as well as conditions imposed by the International Court of Justice in February to prevent a possible genocide. in Gaza they prevent.

Legally it is not easy

In principle, German export legislation offers few options for successfully taking legal action against arms sales. The assistant chosen by Berlin lawyers: they act on behalf of clients who are in Rafah. They have all fled their homes and fear starvation or death in the Rafah offensive, says lawyer Ahmed Abed, who represents them. They did not want to be named “to protect themselves,” he said.

Lawyers are inspired by the ruling of a Dutch court, which ruled in February that the Netherlands must stop its arms exports to Israel, otherwise the country could become complicit in violations of international law. These were spare parts for fighter planes. Just on Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council also called for a halt to arms shipments to Israel. Germany voted against the non-binding resolution, as did the United States and four other countries. 28 countries voted in favor, including EU states, Belgium, Finland and Luxembourg. France and the Netherlands abstained.

Starting Monday, Germany will also have to defend itself before the International Court of Justice. Nicaragua has accused the Federal Republic of Germany of “aiding and abetting genocide” because it supported the government of Israel and suspended payments to the UN aid agency UNRWA for its work in Gaza.