dglobalnews.com Netanyahu refuses to meet German FM over NGO row
Published: Thu, April 27, 2017
Global Media | By Cecelia Webb

Netanyahu refuses to meet German FM over NGO row

Netanyahu refuses to meet German FM over NGO row

An Israeli official said Netanyahu was upset that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was meeting with Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group critical of Israeli military actions in the West Bank.

On Monday, an Israeli official had said Netanyahu would not see German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel if he chose to meet the Israeli group "Breaking the Silence".

"We cannot imagine that we will cancel a meeting with Netanyahu during a visit to Germany if Met with critics of the German government".

Commenting on Netanyahu's prior warning against meeting representatives of the rights groups, Gabriel told German ZDF television that "it is hard for me to imagine this because that would be extremely regrettable".

Spokespersons for Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to answer questions about Netanyahu's decision not to meet with Gabriel, but the Prime Minister's Bureau said in a prepared statement, "imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the United States or Britain met with NGOs that call American or British soldiers war criminals".

But he says a cancellation of Tuesday's meeting wouldn't be a "catastrophe", and wouldn't change his relationship with Israel.

"In no country in the world can you get a reasonable and comprehensive impression if you only meet with government representatives".

"Breaking The Silence is not an organisation that is anti-Netanyahu, but an anti-Israel and anti-Israel Defence Forces".

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"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. Mr Netanyahu has called its activities "insufferable" and warned foreign officials against meeting members of the group.

"As long as it does not meet the minimum conditions of democracy, Israel can not enjoy the privileges that go with being a ... member of the club of democratic countries", the statement said.

"The police have found an evidentiary basis for indictments against Sara Netanyahu, [the Netanyahus' employee] Ali Fahima and against Ezra Seidoff, the deputy director general of the Prime Minister's office", Haaretz reported, although the police statement - unusually -did not name any of the three individuals.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made a choice during his visit to Israel.

Israel passed a law in 2016 requiring non-government organizations that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments to provide details of their donations.

Israel's increasing building of Jewish settlements - deemed illegal under worldwide law - in Palestinian territory has drawn intense global criticism.

In recent years, Berlin has taken a harder line against settlement expansion and in favor of a two-state solution, policies that challenge Netanyahu's right-wing government.

Gabriel arrived in Israel on Monday, the day Israelis mark Holocaust Remembrance Day and remember the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime and the millions of Jews murdered during World War II. On Tuesday Gabriel said it would be "regrettable" if Netanyahu did so.

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