Germany’s foreign minister says he does not want to be “a plaything” for Israel’s politicking after the regime’s prime minister refused to receive him over the senior diplomat’s meeting with pro-Palestine advocacy groups.
“I’ll say it openly, we cannot become a political football for Israeli domestic politics,” Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday.
Gabriel had reached the Tel Aviv-occupied Palestinian territories on Monday. He had in advance made it clear that he sought to meet with the Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem groups, which oppose Tel Aviv’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu gave the top German diplomat an ultimatum over his planned meetings, saying he would not meet him if Gabriel refused to drop the plans.
Netanyahu said the organizations “slander” Israeli troops “and seek to put our soldiers on trial as war criminals,” and that Tel Aviv would routinely shelve meetings with the officials who would hold talks with the rights bodies.
Gabriel, however, proceeded to attend the meetings in spite of the warning. He later addressed the incident, saying, “I regret it greatly. I was surprised by the cancellation of the visit, apparently because we were planning to do something which is quite usual on such visits, namely to speak also with representatives of the civil society.”
“You can’t get a proper and comprehensive picture in any country on Earth if you only meet in government offices,” added Gabriel.
He also signaled that future visits by German officials could likewise feature similar sessions with rights organizations. “I can’t imagine that we would not do such things in the future just to get government appointments,” Gabriel said.
Both Gabriel and Netanyahu, however, asserted that the incident would not harm bilateral ties.