German FM rejects Israeli demand to cancel NGO meetings

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German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel makes a speech during a parliamentary debate on the Greek debt crisis at the German lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Germany’s foreign minister has rejected demands by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he cancel a scheduled Tuesday meeting with left-wing Israeli groups.
German FM Sigmar Gabriel told Germany’s ZDF television channel that — were the situation reverse — it would be “unthinkable” for German officials to prohibit Netanyahu from meeting organizations critical of the German government during an official visit to Germany.
One day before Gabriel’s scheduled Tuesday meeting in Israel with human rights groups B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence (the latter of which is composed of former Israeli soldiers opposed to the Israeli occupation), Netanyahu reportedly threatened to retaliate by canceling his own scheduled meeting with Gabriel.
Gabriel, for his part, responded by describing Netanyahu’s threat as “regrettable”, stressing that it was standard procedure to meet with local civil society groups during diplomatic visits.
Over the course of the last year, Israeli anti-occupation groups have faced mounting pressure from the government and right-wing organizations, with social-media campaigns accusing them of pursuing “foreign agendas” and a law being passed obliging them to disclose any foreign funding.

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