Merkel: Cease-fire only when Israel's security guaranteed
German chancellor speaks to Abbas, comes out as only European leader to pin onus of responsiblity on Hamas.
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN BERLIN
A day after speaking to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and urging a cease-fire in Gaza only when Israel's security could be guaranteed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Her spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, reiterated the position of Merkel's administration following her conversation with Abbas: A sustained cease-fire is only possible when Israel's security can be ensured.
Merkel has been the only European head of state who has pinned the onus of responsibility for the outbreak of violence entirely on Hamas.
She stressed in her talk with Olmert that an effective cease-fire must put an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza.
Merkel secured support for her decision to align the German government with Israel's military operation in Gaza. Israel could have "done nothing else in this situation but to defend itself," Christian Social Union party MP Peter Ramsauer told German Television N24.
Ramsauer stated Hamas's conduct was "downright cynical," because the terror organization was causing civilian deaths by hiding in schools and kindergartens.
By siding with Israel, Merkel has sparked criticism from her coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Walter Kolbow, a leading SPD parliament member, told N24 that Israel's military incursion was "no longer proportional" and called for a cease-fire to end the suffering of the civilian population.
The current fighting in Gaza is testing Germany's declarations of solidarity with Israel. Last March, Merkel delivered a highly-praised speech in the Knesset in which she asserted that Israel's security was a part of Germany's national security interests.
In November, the German parliament issued a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel, and criticized "solidarity with such terroristic and anti-Semitic groups as Hamas and Hizbullah."
Left Party MP Wolfgang Gehrcke, who marched in a pro-Hizbullah demonstration in 2006, refused to support the resolution criticizing Hamas. Gehrcke criticized Merkel's stipulation for a cease-fire.
Green Party MP Volker Beck and member of the German-Israeli parliamentary group criticized Hamas as "irresponsible" for locating its weapons arsenal in residential areas and firing missiles on Israel from civilian locations in Gaza.
Beck called for a cease-fire because the "top priority" was protecting civilians, and he views the IDF's efforts to warn civilians as an insufficient measure to assure their safety.
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