Israel, Germany approve joint projects

Deals signed in environment, education, defense; PM hails joint cabinet meeting as "extraordinary."

merkel wreath yad vashem (photo credit: AP)
merkel wreath yad vashem
(photo credit: AP)
The Israeli and German governments held a first-of-its-kind joint cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Monday after which a bilateral agreement was signed aimed at "promoting and upgrading the strategic relations" between the two countries on a range of issues ranging from defense to the environment. At the opening of the meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this was the first time Israel had held this type of meeting with another government and it reflected both countries' desire for a "unique" relationship. At a press conference after the meeting, Olmert said that the sides had discussed a number of issues reflecting heightened cooperation between the two countries. Olmert said such a level of cooperation would be impressive between any two countries, "but when it's the relations between the State of Israel and Germany, it's something with content, significance and symbolism that are incomparably deep." "What's important is that we're not forgetting anything," Olmert said in reference to Germany's past, "nor giving up on the chance and obligation to work together to ensure a better future of security, conciliation, tolerance and peace for our people, our regional and the whole world." While Germany has held similar consultations with a number of countries in Europe - Italy, France, Spain, Poland and Russia - this was the first time Israel has conducted such a meeting. During the joint cabinet session, in which eight Israeli ministers and seven German ministers participated, Olmert addressed the situation in the South and said that Israel's security cabinet had taken a decision to stop the Kassam rocket fire. "Israel is obligated to do everything to protect its citizens and will continue its efforts to keep Hamas from harming us," he said. At the same time, he said, Israel would also "do everything to move the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians forward." Olmert said the current round of negotiations was "not a default," and that Israel was negotiating out of a belief that there was a real chance of reaching an understanding between the two sides, with the ultimate goal being to reach a peace agreement. Regarding the Iranian threat, Olmert said that "Israel is convinced Teheran is continuing to press ahead with its attempts to attain nuclear arms which can threaten the entire region." Olmert added that Israel would welcome dialogue with Syria if it would lead to Damascus detaching itself from the "axis of evil." He said Israel had no interest whatsoever in an escalation on the northern border. The bilateral agreement that was signed spelled out that "the objective of the consultations is to solidify the unique relationship between Germany and Israel through political measures which look towards the future, while recognizing Germany's awareness of its historic responsibility towards Israel. The German participants reiterate Germany's responsibility for past history and for the Shoah and in this context..." Before the joint cabinet session, Olmert accompanied German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a visit, her second as chancellor, to Yad Vashem.