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Olmert and Merkel in Berlin
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Laying groundwork for Gaza war
Berlin first stop in Israeli effort to obtain international backing ahead of Gaza operation

Olmert, Livni and Barak know that Israel’s public relations apparatus is currently facing a problem. The Western world, which maintained its support for Israel’s right to act against the rocket terror from Gaza employed by Hamas and its associates, is inclined to criticize the Jewish State over the Gaza siege and economic sanctions.

 

Israel’s stock is dropping, reaching the point of a condemnation by British foreign secretary David Miliband last weekend. The concern
is growing in light of the possibility that Israel will need to embark on a wide-scale military operation in Gaza early in spring.

 

Olmert is reading the international map and he knows what Israel has planned should the Qassam fire continue. Together with Livni and Barak, they postpone the decision to embark on major Gaza operation every week. Yet the three of them know that it is impossible to go on with a situation whereby civilians are subjected to Qassam barrages and a game of Palestinian roulette.

 

In closed-door sessions, Olmert’s people make it clear that should Israel decide on a wide-scale operation, it would need international room for maneuver. It needs support that would be similar to what Israel enjoyed in the last war in Lebanon. This will enable Israel to complete an effective military operation and also, if necessary, would facilitate the involvement of a UN-mandated multinational force in order to prevent the emergence of a new Gaza vacuum.

 

Grand diplomatic campaign

Berlin, which is undecided on the prospects of a major Israeli operation, was a good place to start. On the one hand there is Chancellor Merkel there, who was convinced of the need to back Israel’s actions – ranging from continued civilian sanctions to expanded military operations. On the other hand, there is German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Merkel’s coalition partner, who does not automatically back everything Israel says.

 

Olmert presented to the German administration the distress faced by Sderot and Gaza-region residents, pointed to Hamas-Iran ties, and warned that fundamentalist terrorism has no boundaries. This public relations work was apparently useful.

 

Now, officials at the Prime Minister’s Office are expecting the grand campaign to start.

 

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Livni took 70 foreign diplomats to see a 15-second film, about the 15 seconds that Sderot residents have in order to find a shelter from the exploding Qassams. Now she traveled to Washington, where she will meet her counterpart Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to arrive here next month. In the meeting Livni will discuss the intolerable situation in the south.

 

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Barak traveled to Turkey, and spoke about the need to safeguard southern residents even before promoting negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state. Other ministers will travel worldwide, while our ambassadors will work hard.

 

Berlin came first, as a harbinger of what the political leadership in Jerusalem wishes to achieve internationally, ahead of the hot summer in Gaza. 

 

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