Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Germany is in discussions to send lethal military aid to Israel to help it crack down on Hamas and deter an “apocalyptic” intervention by other hostile regional powers.
German defence minister Boris Pistorius said two armed Heron combat drones, leased by the German military, had already been returned for use by Israeli forces. Talks have begun about shipments of German ammunition for use by Israeli warships, Pistorius told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.
Israel’s military is expected in the coming days to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas rules and from where the group carried out last weekend’s horrific attacks on Israeli civilians, which amounted to the worst loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust.
“There is only one place for Germany — that place is at Israel’s side,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a speech to lawmakers on Thursday morning, adding that Germany’s support would mean more than just words.
Until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, it had been Germany’s longstanding official policy not to supply arms to conflict zones. Despite Berlin’s commitment to a dramatic rethinking of security policy, opposition to German military entanglement in foreign conflicts still runs deep in German society.
“I have asked Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to remain in close contact and to inform us of any need[s],” Scholz told the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.
Berlin has already told Israel that it will provide medical facilities and support for injured Israeli servicemen. The German government would “immediately examine and also grant” other requests, Scholz said.
“Israel’s security is Germany’s national interest,” he continued, citing the historic responsibility of Germany to protect the Jewish homeland in atonement for Nazism.
Scholz is due to meet the Emir of Qatar in Berlin on Thursday afternoon. Qatar, which hosts the official leadership of Hamas, is positioning itself as a negotiator in the conflict.
Scholz said he would also speak by telephone to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.
A key issue in the discussions with both leaders will be the fate of the dozens of international and Israeli hostages held by Hamas as a result of its raids in southern Israel.
The talks will also focus on ways to contain the conflict. US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Thursday in a display of solidarity also aimed at deterring opportunistic enemies of Israel.
Several incursions have already taken place between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon, which experts warn may be minded to try to capitalise on Israel’s current situation and launch an attack of its own.
“Hizbollah must not intervene in the fighting,” Scholz warned in his speech. “There would then be the threat of a devastating conflagration — with possible repercussions as far as north Africa and Yemen. Together with our partners, we are using all channels to prevent such an apocalyptic scenario.”