Netanyahu gives German FM 'ultimatum' over meeting with NGOs

Even former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon applauded Netanyahu for refusing to meet with Gabriel, saying Europe's "funding and involvement...crosses red lines in relations between countries".

As reported earlier by JOL, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled today (Tuesday) his meeting with German Foreign Affairs Minister Zigmar Gabriel, after he did not follow Netanyahu's demand to not meet with left-wing organizations.

Gabriel has said he received no official message from Netanyahu's office and instead found out about the threat in the Israeli media.

He said that "those same diplomats would never dream of doing this in the USA or United Kingdom, or in any other place".

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu surprised the German Foreign Minister Siegmar Gabriel yesterday by refusing to meet him.

Among those receiving money from Germany are the "Women's Coalition for Peace", "Physicians for Human Rights", and "Zochrot" - an organization calling for the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel (in other words, Israel's destruction).

But he stressed that Israel's relations with Germany would remain strong and important.

Successive German governments have made strong ties with Israel a top priority since World War II, working hard to heal the wounds of the holocaust. It has often locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass and its critics have denounced its reports as dishonest, inaccurate, and part of an advocacy campaign meant to harm Israel's image overseas.

Meanwhile, President Rivlin took the diplomatic high road, welcoming Gabriel's arrival in Jerusalem on Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day, which he called particularly significant.

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Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War and has controlled the two regions ever since, despite global criticisms.

The worldwide community views the Israeli settlements as illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied territory.

He had also told German public television station ZDF that a decision to cancel the meeting would be "extremely regrettable".

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

Yaalon, who now heads a new political movement, said the extremist culture of "generating hatred for short-term political benefits" posed a greater challenge to Israel than Islamic militants.

"You can't get a proper and comprehensive picture in any country on Earth if you only meet in government offices", he added. "I can't imagine that we would stop doing this in the future only so we could meet with government officials". He was due to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials during his trip.

It is noteworthy that the Israeli foreign ministry has summoned two months ago the Belgian ambassador over a meeting conducted by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel with representatives of "Breaking the Silence" during his three-day visit to Israel.

One group in particular, Breaking the Silence, is known for providing often unverified "testimony" critical of Israeli soldiers operating in the West Bank. He stressed that as a democratic state, Israel is no stranger to being criticized from time to time, but also noted that the IDF "is the most moral army in the world".

Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed reporting. Delivered at 11 a.m. Monday-Friday.

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