Merkel: Rocket fire must stop

After meeting German leader, PM says Israel will move forward with its "battle against terror."

olmert merkel brill224.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert merkel brill224.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Iranian regime's threat to Israel's security dominated Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's three-day visit to Berlin. His second diplomatic meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 14 months addressed issues ranging from the Kassam rocket attacks on Israel to the post-Annapolis peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The ceaseless Kassam fire from the Gaza Strip prompted Merkel to support Israel's right to employ military action against the attacks. "They must stop firing on Israeli cities," Merkel said Monday at a joint press conference with Olmert at the Chancellery, in the heart of Berlin's government district. Merkel articulated her "deepest sympathy" for the Israeli victims of rocket fire in Dimona, where one woman was killed and 11 people were wounded. "It is difficult in Germany for us to imagine the daily threat against the local population," said Merkel. She mistakenly alluded to rocket fire in Dimona when expressing her sadness for the victims. The city is out of Kassam range, but last Monday, two Palestinian suicide bombers entered the city. One detonated himself in a shopping center. Olmert stressed that Israel would move forward with its "battle against terror," adding, "We will do it without any delays." Increased rocket attacks from Gaza was a central theme of Olmert's statements. "The Israeli government under my leadership is absolutely determined to respond to the challenge of terrorism from Gaza in every possible manner which will be effective," he said. But Olmert highlighted that terror attacks were not simply "actions from the south" [Gaza] but were being launched from "other parts of the Palestinian territories." The chancellor said that "the people in the Gaza Strip should use their influence to stop the attacks" because the violence directed at Israel was not advancing the Palestinians' interests. While she acknowledged the "difficult humanitarian situation" in the Gaza Strip, she emphasized that the Hamas-led territory must end its attacks against Israel. Merkel confirmed that with the delivery of German submarines to Israel, Germany would "support Israel to the best of [its] ability." Olmert, who said he was "very proud of the performance of our security and intelligence services," dismissed rumors surrounding the discussion of intelligence agencies in connection with the American National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report. The NIE contended that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but Israeli officials believe Iran is still energetically pursuing nuclear arms. Olmert stressed that the Iranian nuclear arms program was not shrouded in confusion. He said one only had to "look at the simple and fundamental of facts" of Iran's determination to enrich uranium, a necessary pre-condition for building a nuclear bomb, and its need for ballistic missiles. While the topic of Germany imposing unilateral economic sanctions against Iran was not raised at the press conference, German Parliament President Norbert Lammert told Olmert following the press conference, that "Israel's security is a priority for Germany politics, even ahead of economic interests." The German cabinet will conduct a session in Israel in March to honor Israel's 60th year anniversary. Germany is Iran's most important trade partner, and the flourishing economic relationship between Teheran and Germany remains a source of great concern and frustration for Israeli and American officials who wish to see German companies, such as energy giant Siemens, end their contracts with Iran.