Israel glad Germany will head EU

Berlin welcome since previous tenure was open to watering down Hamas stance.

Olmert-Merkel 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Olmert-Merkel 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli diplomatic officials are breathing a sigh of relief that Germany, considered one of Israel's strongest supporters in Europe, will be taking over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Monday for the next six months. The president of the EU, according to officials in Jerusalem, has a great deal of influence over the agenda and the tone of the statements that come out of the EU. The German presidency, according to sources in Jerusalem, is especially welcome since it follows the Finnish tenure, a tenure marked by concern that the EU would be open to watering down the international community's three criteria for recognizing a Hamas-led Palestinian government, and for being open to new diplomatic initiatives that were not closely linked to the road map. While in the end, none of this materialized, there was a sense in Jerusalem over the last half-year that Finland was among those in Europe interested in finding "short cuts" for Hamas to give them legitimacy without the organization having had to fulfill completely the three requirements: recognizing Israel, forswearing terrorism, and accepting previous agreements. In contrast, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met last month in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said after the meeting that there was a great deal of agreement between Berlin and Jerusalem concerning the need to remain firm on the three criteria, as well as on how to move forward diplomatically on the Palestinian track. The Germans will hold the presidency until July 1, when Portugal will take over.