Germany’s parliamentary budget committee on Wednesday approved a military lease of Israeli-made Heron-TP drones in a deal worth an estimated €1 billion ($1.85 billion).
The deal had faced opposition from the center-left Social Democrats, who are partners in the ruling coalition, because the surveillance drones can also be equipped with weapons.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the approval of the deal.
“This is an enormous contribution to the Israeli defense industry and the Israeli economy. This giant deal is an expression of the strategic cooperation between Germany and Israel and attests to the potential of the Israeli industry to contribute to countries like Germany,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Netanyahu discussed the deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting last week in Berlin, according to the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Germany’s coalition parties agreed in February to lease unarmed drones built by Israel Aerospace Industries and to hold a debate on arming the aircraft at a later date.
The opposition Greens party voted against the deal, noting that €50 million ($58 million) had already been set aside for a program to arm the drones.
“The big promised debate about the arming of the drones is a farce given what’s already included in this contract,” said Greens lawmaker Tobias Lindner, who is on the budget committee, according to the Reuters news agency.
The deal, which will see the drones leased through 2027, includes two contracts. The first is with Airbus to manage the drones, while the other was inked with the Israeli government to provide training, infrastructure, and logistics, the report said.
The long-endurance drones will be based in Israel.
Germany is leasing the drones until European-built drones are ready for operation around 2025, according to the report.