Germany was expected to approve a deal to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are weapons-capable, a feature that has caused a tumultuous debate within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, Globes reported on Tuesday.
The €1 billion deal to lease the drones from Israel Aerospace Industries is scheduled for a vote in the Bundestag defense committee on Wednesday. Passage is considered likely, given the coalition majority on the committee.
Merkel’s coalition partners, the German Social Democratic Party, was split over the proposal, which has been the focus of intense internal debate, Globes said, citing sources.
Israel is said to be “tensely awaiting” the vote, after the deal was blocked in 2017 at the last minute by the SDP.
Merkel gave her personal backing for the deal for the first time last week at a joint press conference in Berlin with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that the Israeli UAVS “protect German soldiers,” referring to the country’s military operations in Mali and Pakistan.
Despite the likelihood that the deal will go through over their opposition, some SDP members said they would nevertheless vote against it as a protest; and some said they would participating in a demonstration outside the Bundestag, the German parliament.
“Purchasing the UAVs was a matter for angry disputes within the SDP faction,” revealed Bundestag budget committee member Sven Schulze in a letter to his supporters. “I reserve the right to oppose the purchase of armed UAVs and to oppose the purchase of UAVs likely to be armed in the future.”
Another SDP member, Dr. Karl-Heinz Brunner, said he would attend tomorrow’s demonstration against it. “Armed UAVs have only fueled hatred and war in every country in which were used,” he argued.
Past surveys have shown that most Germans oppose the use of armed UAVs because of the risk of harming innocent civilians.