Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a scheduled meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, after the diplomat rejected a demand by the Israeli leader not to meet with members of two Israeli NOG’s, including ‘Breaking the Silence’ and ‘B’Tselem’, organizations that criticize the IDF around the world for what they claim is Israel’s illegal conduct, under international law, against Palestinians in the West Bank.
“I am leading Israel’s foreign relations to an unprecedented flourishing state but I do so through proud nationalist policies and not by bowing our heads and groveling. Our relations with Germany are strong and important and they will continue to be so. My policy is clear: Not to meet with diplomats who visit Israel and engage with organizations that slander Israeli soldiers and seek to have them put on trial as war criminals. Those same diplomats would not dream of doing such a thing in the United States or in Britain, or anywhere else. Our soldiers are the foundation of our existence, they protect us and we will look after them,” said Netanyahu.
Even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also acts as Israel’s Foreign Minister, emphasized that relations between Jerusalem and Berlin would remain strong and important, the dispute with his German counterpart threatened to widen a rift between the two countries, as Germany has become increasingly critical of Israel’s government policies pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I regret it greatly. And, I’ll say it openly, we cannot become a political football for Israeli domestic politics. But my relations with Israel and Germany’s relationship with Israel won’t be changing because of that in any regard, but rather we are two countries which cooperate closely with each other. The security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state belongs, as Mrs Merkel once said, to Germany’s reason of state. Our behaviour won’t change, but it’s nevertheless regrettable. Now let’s see when we will meet the next time,” added Netanyahu.
Minister Gabriel, even though emphasizing his dismay at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision, sought to reduce tensions, stressing that while the move was something that “by all means cannot be,” it was not a diplomatic breakup between the two countries.
“The official statement was that Mr. Netanyahu didn’t want us to meet with NGOs which are critical against the government. That is something, in my view, which by all means cannot take place. One can imagine that we invite Mr. Netanyahu to Germany, then he wants to meet NGOs which are criticising the government, which indeed exist in Germany, and we say: ‘If you do that, we are going to interrupt the visit.’ The people would judge us as crazy. Therefore, I think we have to let the issue cool down. It was not nice, what happened. He is also a foreign minister and foreign ministers should actually be able to speak in every situation to each other. But it’s not the case that essentially compromises the relationship between Germany and Israel,” said Gabriel.
Germany sees itself as one of Israel’s closest allies and the cooperation and trade links are extensive.