"Today, I am pleased to announce that three days ago, we added an important component to our defensive force. We purchased four new Saar vessels from Germany," Netanyahu said, using the Hebrew word for patrol.
Speaking at a Dec. 25 Israel Air Force ceremony, Netanyahu credited German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the bilateral cooperation manifest in the latest deal for the four offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and Israel's ongoing program for German-built Dolphin-class submarines.
"I would like to thank German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her commitment and constant assistance to our security," he said.
Officials from the Prime Minister's office and the Defense Ministry were unavailable to provide details of the announced OSP deal or the extent to which Berlin may be funding the program.
For more than two years, Israeli officials had been trying to secure German commitment to share some of the costs of the estimated 2.3 billion shekel program.
Israel plans to use the four OPVs by Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in defense of offshore energy sites and other strategic assets. The ships, loosely-customized versions of the Meko A-100, are built by the same consortium contracted for Israel's six Dolphin-class submarines fleet.
In four separate agreements going back decades, Germany agreed to fully fund the first two submarines, split costs of the third, and underwrite the last three submarines by about 30 percent. The INS Rahav, Israel's fifth submarine, is expected to arrive here in the first months of the coming year. A sixth submarine is under construction and is expected to be deployed by the end of 2017.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.