BERLIN – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday evening as part of Israel's diplomatic efforts to garner internal support for a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip.
Olmert has expressed his disappointment with the decline in European support for Israel's policy in Gaza despite the incessant Qassam rocket fire on southern Israel.
Sources in the PM's Office attributed the development to a joint attempt by the Palestinians and elements in the United Nations and the European Union to convince the international community that there is a growing concern that Gaza may face a humanitarian crisis.
During his meeting with the chancellor, Olmert reiterated Israel's claim that no sovereign nation in the world would tolerate massive rocket fire on its civilian population without retaliation and stressed that Israel's current policy of low-intensity military activity coupled with economic sanctions has not halted the Qassam attacks on Sderot and neighboring western Negev communities.
The prime minister also expressed his support for Merkel's position in favor of imposing a third round of sanctions against Iran, perhaps even before the release next month of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. However, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has argued for a softer line against Tehran.
Olmert hopes Merkel will keep up the pressure on German firms exporting goods to Iran, and disclosed to her information Israel had obtained regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Yoram Turbowicz, a senior aide to the prime minister, and Olmert's diplomatic adviser Shalom Turgeman also took part in the meeting. Merkel and Olmert are expected to meet again Tuesday morning, at which time they'll discuss the chancellor's scheduled visit to Israel on March 17.