Published: Fri, April 28, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Netanyahu Refuses To Meet With Visiting German Foreign Minister


The Israeli official said Gabriel was welcome to meet B'tselem, another Israeli rights group critical of government policies toward the Palestinians.

Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said Tuesday that her ministry for the past couple years was waging a battle against "anti-Israel organisations that are massively funded by European states".

Gabriel came to Israel a day ahead of his Tuesday meetings in order to be here when the Jewish state marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday.

Following the last-minute cancellation, Gabriel refused to take a phone call from Netanyahu, according to a report of the Ha'aretz newspaper.

After simmering for months, a crisis between Israel and Germany has erupted into the open, putting serious strain on a special relationship painstakingly built up after the Holocaust.

Steinberg named the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), the Palestinian Solidarity Coordination Committee and the fringe Israeli extremist group Zochrot as examples of groups who receive foreign funding despite contesting Israel's legitimacy.

Earlier, Gabriel had said it would be "regrettable" if Netanyahu canceled their planned talks in Jerusalem.

"It is completely normal that we speak with civil society representatives during a visit overseas", he said, adding that it would be "unthinkable" to cancel a meeting with Netanyahu if he meets government critics in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson has backed the country's foreign minister in a spat over his meeting with a rights group in Israel, saying it must be possible to meet organisations critical of an organisation in a democracy.

Obama's Dangerous, Secret Deal to Secure his Iran Agreement
These included sensors for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, the activity that led to sanctions on Iran. David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, said to Politico .

But tensions occasionally flare up over Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, as well as settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Gabriel has been Germany's foreign minister since January and its vice chancellor since 2013.

Cancelling the meeting was a rare step, but in line with the current right-wing government's stance against groups it accuses of having political agendas and of unfairly tarnishing Israel.

"Breaking the Silence" is a non-government organization that publishes testimonies of Israeli veterans to shed light on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Gabriel, who has called Israel an apartheid state, met with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, and was scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin.

He said it would be unthinkable if Israeli politicians were not allowed to meet with critics of the German government.

Both organisations have become popular targets for right-wing politicians, who accuse them of damaging Israel's reputation overseas and putting Israeli soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution.

"It was his choice", Deputy Minister for Diplomatic Relations Michael Oren said of Gabriel in an interview with Army Radio. "Our army is the most moral army in the world", the president said, adding that "it is an army made up of all our children".

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