Israel-Germany Relationship ‘Unchanged,’ Says Sigmar Gabriel After Netanyahu Cancels Sit-Down to Protest FM’s Meeting With Far-Left NGO
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel moved quickly to defuse a diplomatic row with Israel on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a face-to-face sit-down in protest of Gabriel’s meeting with a far-left Israeli group during an official visit to the Jewish state.
“My relationship with Israel, and Germany’s relationship to Israel, will not be changed by this in any way,” Gabriel said, after learning that Netanyahu had axed their meeting. Netanyahu was furious over Gabriel’s decision to meet with Breaking the Silence — an NGO that releases anonymous testimonies purportedly from IDF soldiers. Many of the testimonies accuse Israel of committing war crimes.
In a terse statement, Netanyahu’s office commented: “Imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the United States or Britain met with NGOs that call American or British soldiers war criminals. Leaders of those countries would surely not accept this.”
The statement continued: “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy is not to meet foreign visitors who, on diplomatic trips to Israel, meet with groups that slander IDF soldiers as war criminals.”
“Our relations with Germany are very important and they will not be affected by this,” the statement concluded.
Gabriel did meet earlier on Tuesday in Jerusalem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who stated at a joint press conference with the German foreign minister that the IDF was “the most moral army in the world.”
“It is an army made up of all our children,” Rivlin said. “We know how to maintain our army as the most moral in the world, and we will continue to do so.”
Professor Gerald Steinberg — president of the watchdog group NGO Monitor — told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that the problem was larger than Breaking the Silence alone.
“The German government gives large amounts to organizations — Palestinian, Israeli, European — that demonize Israel,” said Steinberg.
Steinberg named the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), the Palestinian Solidarity Coordination Committee and the fringe Israeli extremist group Zochrot as examples of groups who receive foreign funding despite contesting Israel’s legitimacy.
According to NGO Monitor, Breaking the Silence received approximately $3 million in direct and indirect funding from European governments, including Germany, between 2012 and 2016.
“These are examples of irresponsible German funding,” Steinberg said. “It may be useful for the prime minister to explain this to the German foreign minister.”