German FM: 'regrettable, unimaginable' that Netanyahu would cancel meeting
Odd ANDERSEN (AFP)
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel responded on Tuesday morning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's threat to cancel a planned meeting between the two officials if the German minister refused to call off his visit to left-wing NGOs.
Calling the Israeli Prime Minister's ultimatum "regrettable and unimaginable" in an interview with German media outlet ZDF, Gabriel added that "it is perfectly normal for us to meet with representatives of civil organizations during a political visit."
"You do not get a full impression of the state when you meet the government only - you have to talk to artists, writers and even critical organizations," he said.
Gabriel, who is currently in Israel, is planning to meet with representatives of the Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem organizations.
Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of IDF veterans, has a stated objective of gathering testimonies from members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who have served in the West Bank and Gaza, in order to document the conduct of soldiers in these areas, and B'tselem is a left-wing human rights NGO.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu's planned meeting with Gabriel on Tuesday was not on the schedule that was distributed to media outlets.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said that the ultimatum was "a serious blow to Israel's foreign relations with the largest economy in Europe and a true friend of the Jewish people."
"Instead of running away from the campaign, I call upon Netanyahu to meet with the German foreign minister and present his views and positions, without fear of other organizations," Herzog added, according to Channel 2.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein backed the prime minister, calling Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem "anti-Israeli propaganda organizations."
The chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid supported the prime minister, saying that Netanyahu "should not cancel his meeting with the German foreign minister, but if he had met in Germany with radical leftist organizations, Merkel would have been just as upset."
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud party expressed her support for Netanyahu, saying that the prime minister's decision to draw a red line against these "anti-Israel organizations" was an "important struggle against those who defame Israel around the world."
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