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A few years ago, when Israel ordered the three Dolphin-class submarines from Germany – the first of which arrived at its homeport of Haifa on the eve of the Jewish New year – it became abundantly clear that the strategic threat to Israel is posed by Iran. The latter accelerated the development of its nuclear capabilities. We all recall Prime Minister Netanyahu’s information tours only two years ago, designed to highlight this threat and to underscore how close and imminent this danger is to Israel. Netanyahu explained and the world listened most attentively, realizing that Israel’s fleet of these cutting-edge submarines can constitute the real deterrent to Iran.
Trouble is, ever since Iran has become the top menace to Israel’s existence, the map of strategic threats has changed beyond recognition. The threats are currently more diverse: ISIS assassins number over 30,000, all hell-bent on making the whole world Muslim; “attack tunnels” from the Gaza Strip directly to Israeli settlements along the Southern border, tunnels leading from the border with Lebanon to Israeli settlements in the Galilee, stockpiles of dozens of thousands of rockets and missiles aimed at Israel from the north, the center and the south, and untold quantities of mortar shells (which cannot be traced in time) ready for immediate launch by Islamist terrorist from Hamas. On top of all this, the fighting in Syria is getting close to the Israeli border on a daily basis.
Israel must be ready to act against future threats rather than against dangers from the past, and prepare the proper responses for these threats. These preparations cost a great deal of money. As Israel’s finances are scarce and the required increase in Israel’s defense budget could cripple its economy, the right priorities must be set. Israel cannot afford the luxury of having it both ways. One poignant example is the cost of the three additional Dolphin-class submarines to the Israeli navy. It seems the cost is heavy: the three submarines cost $2 billion. Fortunately for Israel, the German government pledged to pocket one quarter of this cost as a gesture of goodwill and commitment to Israel.
Economically speaking, Israel must complete the expansion of its deep sea navy. Cutting edge submarines have been the proper solution in bygone days. Nowadays, the face of conflict is changing, and no one can say for certain what the cost of preparing for the new threats will be. As President Barack Obama has already began leading the coalition against ISIS, it is highly likely the US will be ready to assume part of the costs of Israel’s new preparedness. Israel cannot afford to carry this burden all by itself.