German FM 'played down' guilt of Hamas

Head of German Jews: I wish that Israel had such friends as Chancellor Merkel throughout the world.

Steinmeier 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Steinmeier 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
BERLIN - The president of Germany's 105,000 member Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, criticized Social Democratic Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday. Speaking from Munich in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Knobloch said Steinmeier "played down the question of guilt" for Hamas's failure to extend the cease-fire agreement in December. She said that Steinmeier had not brought Hamas's culpability in triggering the IDF operation to stop Hamas rocket attacks on Israel "to the fore." In contrast, Knobloch said she was "very satisfied" with the position of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pinned the blame squarely on Hamas for the outbreak of the war. "I wish that Israel had such friends as Chancellor Merkel throughout the world", said Knobloch. In an e-mail to the Post, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jens Plötner, wrote, "Immediately after the Israeli air strikes began, the minister expressly declared, 'I am very worried about the escalation of violence in the Middle East. The federal government has no sympathy for the unilateral abandonment of the cease-fire with Israel by Hamas. Hamas must immediately and permanently end the unacceptable rocket attacks on Israel.'" Knobloch called for the "involvement" of former Green Party Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in the unfolding conflict in Gaza. In an interview with the weekly Die Zeit on Wednesday, Fischer sided with Merkel and said, "I have to defend the Federal government. Our solidarity with Israel is non-partisan and that has been part of the national security interests since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany." The chairman of the German-Israeli parliamentary group, Jerzy Montag of the Green Party, who raised the ire of Israeli diplomats last December at a function celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary by criticizing Israel's conduct toward the Palestinians, declined to respond to a Post press query on the absence of a solidarity statement for Israel from the German-Israeli group. But in an e-mail to the Post, MP Dirk Niebel, the general secretary of the Free Democratic Party who serves on the executive committee of the German-Israel group, wrote, "The paralyzing fear that Israel suffers is unbearable. Imagine if a neighboring country, like Belgium, would constantly attack Aachen with rockets. No country could accept these conditions. It is absolutely necessary that Israel's right to exist, as a Jewish state within secure borders and free of terror and threat, be ensured." In a statement, Knobloch criticized the "one-sided portrayal of the Mideast conflict" in Germany. She said Hamas "hides behind the population on the Gaza Strip, misuses the civilian population, including children, as human shields, and in that way worsens the situation for the population of the Gaza Strip. This fact is unfortunately too often ignored in the public debate."