German FM supports Israel on Hamas

Germany and Israel are on the same page regarding Hamas's need to disarm and disavow terrorism, recognize Israel and accept all previous agreements with it, visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday after meeting Israeli leaders. "I wanted to let Israel know that it can count on our solidarity, especially after the Palestinian elections," he said after meeting Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He reiterated that Germany agreed with Israel's three preconditions for contact with Hamas, a position German Chancellor Angela Merkel made very clear during her visit here just two weeks ago. Steinmeier, speaking at a press conference after meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, did not give any indication that Germany looked favorably on Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas leaders to Moscow. He said that the European Union, which had placed Hamas on its terrorist list, is in a different legal situation than Russia, which had never taken such a step. "From a legal point of view we cannot start a dialogue [with Hamas] in the current situation," he said. When asked whether Israel would meet with Hamas even if it did accept the three conditions, Livni said that, in such a case, Hamas would cease to be Hamas. If it didn't do this, however, and forms the next government - regardless of whether it places technocrats or Hamas activists in the government - the PA would become a terrorist entity. "The international community set the three conditions, and if Hamas will meet them, the feeling is that it would not be Hamas anymore," Livni said. "If they totally renounce terrorism and violence, accept the existence of Israel, and adopt previous agreement with Israel, that means we are at the beginning of the first phase of the road map in which there are obligations for the Palestinians to implement." Livni termed this scenario "kind of optimistic." The world characterized countries as supporting terrorism if they support them, even indirectly, or let terrorist organizations cross over their territory, Livni said. "It is clear, therefore, what the case is when a terrorist organization takes over a government." In between meetings, Steinmeier, on his first official visit to Israel, visited Yad Vashem. Tomorrow he is scheduled to go to Ramallah for meetings with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and outgoing Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa.