Israeli PM cancels meeting with German FM over West Bank

CNC
Added On April 26, 2017

JERUSALEM, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday canceled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over the visiting official's plan to meet with groups critical of Israel's action in the West Bank, local media reported.
 
A spokesman with the Prime Minister's Office confirmed the meeting, originally scheduled to 17:00, would not take place.
 
Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reported that after the cancellation Gabriel refused to take a phone call from Netanyahu. The prime minister wanted to speak with the foreign minister to personally explain why he had reservations regarding the meeting with Breaking The Silence and B'Tselem, Ha'aretz reported.
 
Earlier, Netanyahu threatened that he would call off his meeting with Gabriel if the latter meet with the two rights groups.
 
Gabriel rejected the ultimatum. "It is difficult for me to imagine this because that would be extremely regrettable," he told German public television station ZDF.
 
"It is completely normal that we speak with civil society representatives during a visit abroad," he said, adding that it would be "unthinkable" to cancel a meeting with Netanyahu if he met government critics in Germany.
 
Gabriel is on a visit to the Middle East to press for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
On Tuesday morning, he met with opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Labor party.
 
In the afternoon, he met with President Reuven Rivlin. Gabriel told the president that Germany is "committed to the friendship, partnership, and special relationship with Israel, and nothing will change that," according to a statement released by the President's Residence.
 
Such incidents occurred in the past during visit by officials to Israel.
 
In February, Netanyahu instructed the foreign ministry to reprimand the Belgian ambassador after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with representatives of Breaking The Silence and B'tselem during a visit to Israel.
 
Right-wing political leaders hailed Netanyahu's move. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and leader of the Jewish Home ultra-nationalist party said his party is "backing" Netanyahu.
 
"Breaking The Silence is not an organization that is anti-Netanyahu, but an anti-Israel and anti-Israel Defense Forces. It is inappropriate for a foreign minister who visits a particular country to meet with people who are acting against that state," Bennett said in a statement.
 
The two groups have become a frequent target for condemnations by right-wing politicians, who accuse them being "traitors" who acts against Israel.
 
A new law from 2016 requires non-governmental organizations that receive more than half of their funding from overseas governments or bodies like the European Union to publicly state that they receive foreign funds.
 
The law targets specifically human rights groups because right-wing groups almost always rely on local donations.
 
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and had controlled these lands ever since, despite international criticism.