German foreign minister holds meeting with left-wing Israeli NGOs, despite Netanyahu’s request


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Germany’s foreign minister met with representatives of left-wing Israeli organizations, despite being asked by Israel’s prime minister to cancel such a meeting.

Sigmar Gabriel reportedly met with representatives of B’Tselem, a human rights watchdog, and Breaking the Silence, a veterans’ group that alleges the Israeli army abuses Palestinians, late Tuesday. There was no media coverage of the meeting.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, canceled a meeting with Gabriel when the visiting German official decided to keep his meeting with the NGOs.

Gabriel did not comment on the meeting with the NGOs. He also refused to take a call from Netanyahu after their meeting was canceled.

“The chancellor finds it regrettable that a meeting between Foreign Minister (Sigmar) Gabriel and Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Netanyahu did not take place,” a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at a regular government briefing on Wednesday. “It should not be problematic for foreign visitors to meet with critical representatives of civil society.”

Merkel had canceled an annual joint government meeting between Israel and Germany that was scheduled for February, citing scheduling difficulties, though it was reported that the cancellation may have had to do with Germany’s dismay with Israel for not advancing toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Following Gabriel’s meeting with the NGOs, B’Tselem released a statement in English calling on the international community to punish Israel for not ending the occupation of the West Bank.

The statement said, in part, “There must be a price to pay for continued military control of another people while thumbing one’s nose at basic moral values and international law.”