Netanyahu cancels meeting with German FM

"You can't get a proper and comprehensive picture in any country on Earth if you only meet in government offices", said Gabriel, who on Monday visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Gabriel did meet earlier on Tuesday in Jerusalem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who stated at a joint press conference with the German foreign minister that the IDF was "the most moral army in the world".

Gabriel appealed to the Israeli government to continue to work for a pluralistic society and defy nationalism in a column to be published Tuesday, said the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

On Sunday, Norbert Roettgen, head of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told a German broadcaster that lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses a long term threat to Israel.

Merkel said Wednesday it was "regrettable" that Netanyahu denied her foreign minister a meeting, after the diplomat held talks with non-governmental organisations critical of Israel's government and illegal military occupation of Palestinian land.

After the cancellation, Gabriel refused to take a phone call from Netanyahu, a report said. He chosen to meet with two subversive NGOs rather than sit with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Speaking to German national television ZDF from Jerusalem, Gabriel said it was usual for him during trips overseas to speak with civil society organizations, even if they were critical of the government.

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday morning tweeted support for the ultimatum, dubbing Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem "anti-Israeli propaganda organizations". For his part, Gabriel nevertheless tried to down-play the incident by reiterating the close ties between Israel and Germany and his own relationship with Netanyahu.

Amid tension between Israel and Germany over Berlin's criticism of settlement building in the West Bank, there is a new diplomatic flare-up.

An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP, "Netanyahu threatened to cancel the meeting if he met with the organizations Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem".

"It places Israel and its government on the same level of importance as a small, marginal organization and makes a martyr of them in the eyes of the world", said Livni, a former foreign minister.

Netanyahu said he won't see visiting diplomats who meet groups "that slander (Israeli) soldiers and seek to put our soldiers on trial as war criminals".

Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and had controlled these lands ever since, despite worldwide criticism.

But neither Breaking the Silence nor B'Tselem can be accurately described as "social groups".

Today (Monday), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his bureau's senior-level officials and officials of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and instructed them to examine a possible 2-year delay in emptying the ammonia tank in Haifa.

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