Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened on Monday to cancel his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over his plans to meet with the Israeli left-wing organization Breaking the Silence, sources told The Jerusalem Post.
The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the matter, but it sent out Netanyahu’s schedule for Tuesday without mentioning the meeting.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely congratulated Netanyahu for setting a redline with regard to “anti-Israel” organizations.
“This is battle against those who slander Israel in the world,” she said.
Netanyahu says ‘insufferable’ Breaking the Silence is ‘being dealt with’ , March 2016
The German Foreign Minister arrived in Israel on Monday and is set to meet with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah on Tuesday.
Gabriel will also hold talks with Israeli opposition leader Issac Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union. He called on Netanyahu to rescind the ultimatum.
“Netanyahu has fled the field. The ultimatum to the German Foreign Ministry is a serious blow to the Israel’s ties with a country that has the largest economy in Europe and is a true friend,” Herzog said.
He called on Netanyahu to meet with Gabriel so he could explain his opposition with regard to Breaking the Silence.
“Tomorrow morning I will present my views to the German Foreign Minister,” Herzog said.
Gabriel’s visit, his first since becoming foreign minister in January, comes as German concerns about Israeli settlement building have dragged ties to their lowest point in years.
In Mach German Chancellor Angela Merkel canceled a summit with Netanyahu that was due to occur in Jerusalem in May, warning that settlement building was undermining progress toward a two-state solution.
Netanyahu’s ultimatum is likely to only increase tensions with Germany, which is Israel’s strongest ally in continental Europe.
German governments have made strong relations with Israel a top priority ever since World War II, going to great lengths to make amends for the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis.
Israel is determined, however, to crack down on Left-wing non-governmental organizations, which harshly criticize its policies particularly with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many of those NGOs, receive funding from European governments.
Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said that Merkel would have responded the same way if Netanyahu had met with radicle German Left-wing groups while visiting the country.
In February Israel reprimanded Belgium after discovering that it’s Prime Minister Charles Michel had met with Breaking the Silence during a visit to Israel.
During his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Tuesday Gabriel is expected to discuss the peace process which has been frozen since April 2014.
“With respect to the Middle East conflict, our solidarity with Israel also means working to ensure that Israel and Palestine can live side by side in dignity and peace,” Gabriel said in a statement released as he departed for the region.
“Only a two-state solution will be sustainable,” he said.
“We do not believe that the current situation is sustainable,” Schaefer said. “We think it’s necessary to make another attempt to revive talks and negotiations in the framework of the Middle East process.”
Lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses a long-term threat to Israel, Norbert Roettgen, head of Germany’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Sunday.
He said relations between the two countries remained deep and important, but also cited “grave differences of opinion.”
“All those who care deeply about Israel... are sad, even depressed, about how entrenched everything is, and how much Israel is relying on its military-police superiority and is not developing any perspectives for the situation,” he said.
Roettgen said Israel was profiting from tensions elsewhere in the region, which had shifted the focus away from the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and infighting among Palestinians.
That had short-term security advantages, but the underlying situation was growing worse and more negative, he said, adding, “That is a real threat for Israel in the longer term.”
On Monday, after his arrival, Gabriel visited Yad Vashem, a museum dedicated to the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.
Gabriel wrote in its guest book and said, “Today, Israel remembers those who died in the Shoah, six million Jews who were murdered by the National Socialists in an unparalleled crime against humanity. “On this occasion I want to reiterate in no uncertain terms the historic responsibility that Germany bears for the Holocaust and the crimes of the Second World War and that guides our conduct today.
“For our generation it is both a warning and an obligation – to take a stand against antisemitism and for human dignity, tolerance and intercultural understanding. That is the task for which we will one day be called to account.
“Here in Israel today, I bow my head in silence before the unfathomable depths, the almost inconceivable betrayal of all civilized values that was the Shoah, and before the country that has, despite this, extended its hand to us Germans,” Gabriel said.Reuters contributed to this report