Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, was due to meet Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, but Mr. Netanyahu canceled the meeting at the last minute because of Mr. Gabriel’s plans to visit two Israeli human rights groups. This was confirmed by the German Embassy in Israel as well as by Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman.
According to a statement made by Mr. Netanyahu’s office, Israeli official policy “is not to meet with diplomats who meet with groups that slander the Israel Defense Force.”
Israeli media reported that Mr. Netanyahu had previously threatened to cancel because of Mr. Gabriel’s planned meeting with the organizations “Breaking the Silence” and “B’tselem”, which are both critical of Israel’s settlement policy. “Breaking the Silence” collects testimonies from Israeli veterans about the military’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and alleges Israeli settlers have influence on the army’s actions.
Both organizations have become targets for right-wing politicians, who accuse them of damaging Israel’s reputation abroad and putting Israeli soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Gabriel had said it would be a “remarkable event, to put it mildly,” if Mr. Netanyahu cancelled their planned talks, arguing it was normal to talk to civil society representatives.
“Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister … came to Germany and wanted to meet people critical of the government and we said that is not possible … That would be unthinkable,” he told Germany’s ZDF television.
Mr. Gabriel visited the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem on Monday and laid a wreath in commemoration of the around six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. He is scheduled to meet the human rights groups later on Tuesday.