Netanyahu’s announcement to cancel his planned meeting with German foreign minister Siegmar Gabriel ,if the latter holds on to his plan to meet representatives of the Israeli NGOs B‘Tselem and Breaking the Silence on his current visit to Israel, may very well be considered inappropriate for a democratic leader. And yet, some of the harshest criticism of Netnayahu’s ultimatum shows why the Israeli Prime Minister may actually have a point that justifies his harsh stance towards the German foreign minister and vice chancellor.
In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most influential and widely read quality newspapers, the journalist Majid Sattar writes this morning: “Representatives of the German government – for example, on visits to Russia, China, but also Saudi Arabia – always attach importance to meeting civil society representatives. At the same time, it does not seem possible to make an exception to the country which, in spite of all its problems, is praised by Germany as the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Sattar thereby puts Israel in a row with autocratic, totalitarian regimes where the opposition is not free to raise its voice and where governments suppress their own people. Indeed, one barely hears that a German foreign minister meets with oppositional NGOs on state visits to democratic countries such as Sweden or the Netherlands. So if Gabriel, who once smeared Israel as an Apartheid State and who was quick to travel to Tehran to advance German Iranian trade relations before the ink of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was even dry wants to suggest that Israel has to be treated like a totalitarian autocracy such as Saudi Arabia, than Netanyahu is right when he refuses to meet Gabriel.