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Israel-Germany spat over minister's meeting with NGOs

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By Seamus Kearney
Israel-Germany spat over minister's meeting with NGOs

<p>A diplomatic row has broken out between Israel and Germany.</p> <p>The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled talks with the visiting German Foreign Minister in a protest over his decision to hold a meeting with <span class="caps">NGO</span>s critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.</p> <p>Relations between the two countries had already been strained over Germany’s criticism of settlement building.</p> <p>German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel gave this reaction: “Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister, who is also foreign minister, came to Germany and wanted to meet people critical of the government and we would say: ‘No, this is not possible’. </p> <p>“Doing that, and therefore cancelling our meetings, would be unthinkable. It works both ways.”</p> <p>David Keyes, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said: “Imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the US or Britain met with <span class="caps">NGO</span>s that call American or British soldiers war criminals.</p> <p>“Leaders of those countries would surely not accept this.”</p> <p>Gabriel did go on to meet the Israeli president, however, with both men saying they were committed to their two countries mutual relationship.</p> <p>The Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, said he did not think relations would be affected by the latest row.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Belgium also had a spat with Israel back in February over the issue of visiting <span class="caps">NGO</span>s critical of the Israeli government.</p> <p>This after the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with people from the same group that Gabriel met.</p> <p>The Belgian ambassador to Israel was reprimanded.</p>