Israel-Germany spat over minister's meeting with NGOs

Israel-Germany spat over minister's meeting with NGOs
By Seamus Kearney
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A diplomatic row has broken out between Israel and Germany.


A diplomatic row has broken out between Israel and Germany.

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 NGOs critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Relations between the two countries had already been strained over Germany’s criticism of settlement building.

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’.

“Doing that, and therefore cancelling our meetings, would be unthinkable. It works both ways.”

David Keyes, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said: “Imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the US or Britain met with NGOs that call American or British soldiers war criminals.

“Leaders of those countries would surely not accept this.”

Gabriel did go on to meet the Israeli president, however, with both men saying they were committed to their two countries mutual relationship.

The Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, said he did not think relations would be affected by the latest row.

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.

Belgium also had a spat with Israel back in February over the issue of visiting NGOs critical of the Israeli government.

This after the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with people from the same group that Gabriel met.

The Belgian ambassador to Israel was reprimanded.

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