German FM Refuses Netanyahu Call

German FM, Netanyahu
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during his meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

After Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu carried out his ultimatum to Germany’s foreign minister to cancel their meeting if the latter met with leftwing NGO’s on Tuesday, he did not allow the incident to end there.

Mr. Netanyahu called the diplomat, Sigmar Gabriel, to explain his decision, but this time it was Gabriel’s turn to refuse, and he would not take Mr. Netanyahu’s call.

But the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement explaining the matter, so that at least the general public would know:

“Imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the United States or Britain met with NGOs that call American or British soldiers war criminals. Leaders of those countries would surely not accept this.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy is not to meet foreign visitors who, on diplomatic trips to Israel, meet with groups that slander IDF soldiers as war criminals. Diplomats are welcome to meet with representatives of civil society, but Prime Minister Netanyahu will not meet with those who lend legitimacy to organizations that call for the criminalization of Israeli soldiers. Our relations with Germany are very important and they will not be affected by this,” the statement read.

The groups referred to were Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Mr. Netanyahu had broad support from his coalition.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who has frequently been at odds with the prime minister on various issues, was behind him this time.

“We support the prime minister in his decision regarding the visit of the German foreign minister,” Bennett tweeted. “Breaking the Silence is not an anti-Netanyahu organization, it is an anti-IDF one.”

Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri said that Mr. Netanyahu had his “full support.” “Foreign countries must not intervene in Israel’s internal matters,” he said.

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein branded Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem “anti-Israeli propaganda organizations.”

Gabriel, for his part, insisted that his desire to meet with critics of the government was nothing out of the ordinary, and characterized Mr. Netanyahu’s cancellation as “exceptional” and “regrettable.”

“In no country in the world can you get a reasonable and comprehensive impression if you only meet with government representatives. You have to meet, as we did yesterday, with writers, with artists and students, and also with critical organizations,” he said.

“I don’t want to make a drama about it,” he said in an interview, but added that it would be “exceptional” if the Israeli prime minister were to boycott him.

Gabriel said he only heard of Mr. Netanyahu’s ultimatum through the media, but an Israeli official contested that with The Times of Israel on Monday, saying that “the message was clearly conveyed to the Germans.”

President Reuven Rivlin did not cancel his meeting with Gabriel, and the two met as scheduled.

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