Israel Rebukes Belgium Over PM's Meeting With Left-wing NGOs

Belgian ambassador to Israel hauled into meeting at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu, upset that he talked to leaders of B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and President Reuven Rivlin at the presidential compound in Jerusalem, February 6, 2017.
GALI TIBBON/AP

Israel has officially rebuked Belgium over a meeting held between Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and leaders from human rights NGOs B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the Belgian ambassador to Israel, Olivier Belle, arrived Thursday morning at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem following the meeting between the prime minister of Belgium and the NGO leaders. Nachson said that "the ambassador was reprimanded" and noted the Israeli messages and said he will convey them to Brussels.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the reprimand.

"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."

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.