Foreign Ministry recommends against German troops in multinational force

The Foreign Ministry has recommended that Germany not be included in any future international force in Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The recommendation was made last week, but it did not seem to make its way to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's desk, because in interviews with the German press last week he welcomed Germany's participation in the proposed "stabilization force." According to the Foreign Ministry recommendation, there was "too much symbolism" in having German soldiers on Israel's borders. One official explained that it wouldn't look good and would open too many wounds if in some kind of cross-border incident a German soldier would mistakenly fire on an IDF soldier, or vice versa. A German unit on the border would have to think 50 times before taking any action, whereas soldiers from other countries would have to think just two or three times, one diplomatic source said. He said that stationing a German force on the border could eventually strain Israel's relationship with "its closest ally in Europe." Israeli officials will surely discuss the international force issue with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who arrived Tuesday evening from Beirut. Steinmeier was last here on July 23, making this his second trip since the war began. He is scheduled to meet with Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Olmert, in an interview last week with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said he told Chancellor Angela Merkel that Israel had "absolutely no problem with German soldiers in southern Lebanon." "There is at the moment no nation that is behaving in a more friendly way toward Israel than Germany," Olmert said. "If Germany can contribute to the security of the Israeli people, that would be a worthwhile task for your country. I would be very happy if Germany participated." The next day, the Deutsche Welle Web site quoted Defense Minister Christian Schmidt as saying that Germany would not participate in such a force. "I don't see such a thing happening," he said in comments published in the Stuttgarter Zeitung. "Our political possibilities are outside the military field... I am impressed by the level of trust that the prime minister has shown us, but I don't think we will be able to build a strong mandate, both on a political level and regarding the capacity of the Bundeswehr."