Saturday, 18 August, 2018

German FM: Netanyahu cancelation would be regrettable

Ellis Copeland | 27 April, 2017, 02:40

Israel's increasing building of Jewish settlements - deemed illegal under worldwide law - in Palestinian territory has drawn intense global criticism.

Political reaction to Netanyahu's threat was quick in coming.

"My policy is clear: not to meet with diplomats who visit Israel and meet with organizations that defame IDF soldiers and try to prosecute our soldiers as war criminals, which diplomats would never consider doing in the United States, Britain or anywhere else", Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union, said Netanyahu's behavior was harming Israel's relationship with "a true friend". However, both sides were keen to stress that they didn't expect any long-term impact on relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called off a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Netanyahu's spokesman said.

With respect to the Middle East conflict, our solidarity with Israel also means working to ensure that Israel and Palestine can live side by side in dignity and peace... But he added that it did not spell "the end of diplomatic ties between the two countries". "We need to keep this a little bit in perspective". Canceling his meeting with Netanyahu would be "regrettable", said Gabriel, who visited Israel to participate in activities connected to Holocaust memorial day Monday.

"It is completely normal that we speak with civil society representatives during a visit overseas", he said.

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The cancelation is reportedly due to Gabriel's plans to meet human rights groups critical of Israel's actions in the West Bank.

However, there was no public rebuke when British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with anti-settlement NGO Peace Now during a visit in March. Last month Berlin called off a meeting scheduled for May between German and Israeli leaders amid ongoing controversy over settlement building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"It places Israel and its government on the same level of importance as a small, marginal organization and makes a martyr of them in the eyes of the world", said Livni, a former foreign minister.

Around three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Numerous testimonies accuse Israel of committing war crimes.

In February, Belgium's ambassador to Israel Olivier Belle was summoned for a dressing down in the Foreign Ministry over a meeting by his country's prime minister, Charles Michel, with representatives of the two NGOs.

But neither Breaking the Silence nor B'Tselem can be accurately described as "social groups". Ms Netanyahu has been variously accused of allegedly using money set aside for the prime minister's official residence for furniture and improvements to the pair's private home, paying for her elderly father's care, inflating dinner party numbers to hire private chefs, and pocketing 23,000 shekels (£4,800) in recycling refunds.

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