Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Germany's most widely distributed daily newspaper, Bild, that the German foreign minister's meeting with the left wing NGOs B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence during his visit to Israel last week was "insensitive."
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Netanyahu said that the fact the he had refused to meet German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel would not have a negative influence on Israel-German ties.
"I think it was a particularly insensitive time to seek a meeting like this. These are the days we mourn the murdered members of our people in the Holocaust and our fallen soldiers. The Israeli army is the one force that keeps our people safe today," Netanyahu said.
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Netanyahu lashed out at the anti-occupation veterans group Breaking the Silence, saying they were not a human rights organizations, but a group intent on incriminating Israeli soldiers and working to see them face trial for war crimes.
"Foreign diplomats are welcome to meet with civil society activists and members of the opposition and anyone else they'd like. They can even meet with Breaking the Silence. But my red line is that I will not meet diplomats who come to Israel and lend legitimacy to fringe radical groups that falsely accuse our soldiers of war crimes and undermine Israeli security," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said he tried to call the German foreign minister to explain his position and clear the air, but the latter refused to take the call. According to Netanyahu, despite the incident, the ties between Germany and Israel will continue to be strong and based on the two nations' shared values.
"I hope that the next time Gabriel visits Israel, he meets with me instead of a radical fringe group undermining Israeli security," Netanyahu said.