Netanyahu Summons Ambassador for Rebuke Over Belgian PM's Meeting With Left-wing NGOs

Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel met with leaders of B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence while in Israel, despite Netanyahu's demand that the Belgian government stop funding organizations that 'harm IDF soldiers.'

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Barak Ravid
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Netanyahu and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Jerusalem, February 7, 2017.
Netanyahu and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Jerusalem, February 7, 2017.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

>> UPDATE: Israel rebukes Belgium over PM's meeting with left-wing NGOs >>

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Foreign Ministry to reprimand the Belgian ambassador in Israel after Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel met on Wednesday with leaders from human rights NGOs B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

The Foreign Ministry scheduled a meeting with the ambassador for Thursday morning.

"Israel sees gravely the meeting of the Belgian prime minister today with the heads of Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem during his visit to Israel," said a statement from the prime minister's office. "In Belgium, there are still proposals from the attorney general to put senior Israelis on trial, among them Tzipi Livni and IDF officers. The Belgian government needs to decide if it wants to change direction or continue on an anti-Israel line. Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered a bill be drafted to prevent funding from foreign governments to NGOs that harm IDF soldiers."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel gestures as he speaks on February 7, 2017, during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum.Credit: GALI TIBBON/AFP

Netanyahu met with his Belgian counterpart on Tuesday. A senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu addressed the issue of Belgian funding to NGOs in Israel. "The prime minister insisted that the Belgian government cease funding NGOs that act against IDF soldiers and against the State of Israel, including indirect funding," said the official.

But despite Netanyahu's remarks, or perhaps because of them, the Belgian prime minister met the following day with the director of B'Tselem, Hagai Elad, and with one of the top members of Breaking the Silence, Yehuda Shaul.

The two briefed Michel on the activity of their organizations and gave the assessment of the situation on the ground in the West Bank. The meeting was first reported Wednesday evening by Channel 10 and less than an hour later, Netanyahu ordered the rebuke in protest.

On Monday, during a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London, Netanyahu requested that the U.K. stop funding left-wing Israeli NGOs, first and foremost Breaking the Silence. Netanyahu presented May with a document listing the NGOs that receive funding directly or indirectly from the British government, including Breaking the Silence.

Netanyahu told May that Britain certainly wouldn't be pleased if Israel was funding groups that acted against the interests of the British government. The Israeli prime minister's office said that the U.K. indirectly funds Breaking the Silence, specifying that Britain gives money to organizations like Christian Aid and CAFOD, which then pass money onto Breaking the Silence.

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