Netanyahu's Ultimatum to German Foreign Minister: Cancel Meeting With Israeli Leftists or We Won't Meet

Germans say meetings with B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence still scheduled after prime minister issues ultimatum to Sigmar Gabriel, who is visiting Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Hatzor airbase, April 2, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Hatzor airbase, April 2, 2017. Ilan Assayag

UPDATE April 25, 2017: German foreign minister responds: 'Regrettable' and 'unthinkable' if meeting is canceled

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who arrived on Monday for a visit to Israel, cancel his planned meeting on Tuesday with representatives of B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu issued an ultimatum to Gabriel, saying that if the latter does not cancel his meetings with the left-wing groups, the prime minister won’t meet with him. The ultimatum was first reported by Israel Channel 2 News.

As of Monday night, the meeting with the two groups’ representatives had not been canceled, and German diplomats said it would take place. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Gabriel, but the meeting was not listed on his schedule for Tuesday given to the media. The meeting between Gabriel and the leftist groups is planned for Tuesday evening.

The German foreign minister is expected to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and opposition chairman Isaac Herzog. Herzog issued a statement Monday condemning Netanyahu for the ultimatum and accused him of harming Israel’s foreign relations.

“Netanyahu is fleeing from the field,” Herzog said. “Netanyahu’s ultimatum to the German foreign minister is a serious blow to Israel’s foreign relations with the biggest economy in Europe and a true friend of Israel. Instead of running away from the campaign, I call on Netanyahu to meet with the German foreign minister and present his positions and Israel’s positions, without fear of any organizations.”

Two months ago, the Belgian ambassador to Israel was summoned to a clarification meeting at the Foreign Ministry after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with representatives of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem during his visit to Israel. The previous day Netanyahu had met with Michel and asked that the Belgian government stop funding left-wing organizations in Israel.

The week before that, during his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London, Netanyahu asked that Britain stop funding Israeli left-wing groups, first and foremost Breaking the Silence