A billion-dollar deal which would have seen Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) leasing Heron-2 drones to the German Air Force was scrapped Wednesday from the German agenda amid objections by coalition parties opposed to their offensive capabilities.
Opposition to the deal was first raised last week after members of parliament paid a visit to the industrial compound in Israel and expressed dismay at the discovery that the drones were already equipped with weapons systems which were almost ready to begin operations from the air.
Heron-2 drone (צילום: חיל האוויר)
Shortly after the visit, members of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, told Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Friday that they would not approve the deal with Israel in its current version.
Despite the fact that Germany is currently operating more than ten Heron-1 drones around the world, including in Afghanistan, used for reconnaissance purposes only, the Social Democratic MPs demanded that the Heron-2 drones, which can be equipped with rockets unlike the previous model, do not come with the inclusion of any specialized weapons systems.
The party is fundamentally opposed to the notion of preemptive targeted liquidation using drones. After the visit, its members demanded that the drones be received in a state that would only facilitate intelligence gathering.
“It’s a shame that our friends in the coalition and the Defense Ministry are so stubborn,” said one SPD member yesterday in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet’s print publication. “We would have happily had the drones leased for intelligence missions from the IAI. What a shame.”
The German Green Party welcomed the decision. “Attacks launched by drones changed the face of wars in a radical way. They often contribute to the escalation in the levels of violence and they are a contravention of international law,” one member added.
The last opportunity to approve the deal before the Bundestag's summer hiatus was at the budget committee meeting on Wednesday. Given that it was rejected, discussions on the matter will have to wait for the next government after the September elections.