An Atomic Lie? Der Spiegel, Submarines and Israel
“Der Spiegel,” Germany’s largest weekly, had picked a potentially explosive topic for last week’s cover: Its lead article delved into the clandestine “Operation Samson,” a codename for the nuclear armament of Israeli submarines that were imported from (and partially financed by) Germany. As the German journalist Jakob Augstein wrote, “Der Spiegel” appeared to have uncovered the “atomic lie” of the German government, which usually remains silent when pressed about its arms exports to Israel.
But is this really a newsworthy discovery? In the German newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel” Andrea Nüsse was quick to point out that Germany has been signing deals about submarine exports to Israel for twenty years - deals that have been supported by all major political parties. And the story doesn’t end when the subs leave their German dockyards. For years, security analysts and journalists have discussed the possibility (or, rather, the likelihood) of the nuclear capabilities of the Dolphin Class submarines. On May 10th, the Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” reported on speculations that the two newest submarines were equipped with torpedo tubes that could be refitted to carry nuclear-tipped missiles. In England, the “Sunday Times” discussed communications from the Israeli Defense Ministry, dating back to May 2010, that outlined the country’s defense strategy. According to the “Times,” at least one Dolphin Class submarine is supposed to be kept on alert at all times to be able to deliver a nuclear response to a strike against Israel. And as early as 2008, the American defense analyst Robert Windremreported for NBC that “key to [Israel’s military strategy] is its nuclear-armed submarines. Israelis bought two Dolphin submarines from Germany in the 1990s (half paid for with U.S. funds) and modified them to carry nuclear-armed cruise missiles with ranges capable of striking any nation that could do it harm.” A report from the Council on Foreign Relations draws a similar conclusion.