Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off talks with the visiting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over his insistence on meeting anti-Israel NGOs. Netanyahu had previously urged Gabriel not to meet with organizations that are involved in anti-Israel activism. According to German newspaper Die Zeit, “Netanyahu tried to reach Gabriel on the phone on Tuesday, but the Foreign Minister refused to talk.”

Disregarding his host’s request, Gabriel went ahead with his plans to meet the representatives from Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, two groups fueling anti-Israel activism and the boycott campaign. Gabriel, who also holds the position of Germany’s Vice Chancellor, serves as the chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner.

Netanyahu’s decision irked many German politicians. Social Democratic MP Reinhold Robbe was shocked by PM Netanyahu’s perceived audacity, calling it “an unprecedented temerity on part of the Israeli head of government.” Former Green Party leader Jürgen Trittin hysterically asked on Twitter, “Is [PM Netanyahu] on his way to becoming an autocrat?” Chancellor Merkel’s senior foreign policy advisor Norbert Röttgen (Christian-Democrat) told the reporters in Berlin, “It is a mistake on the Israel’s part, it is very very regrettable.”

Israeli politicians across party lines backed PM Netanyahu’s decision. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri issued statements supporting prime minister’s decision. “This is battle against those who slander Israel in the world,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely said.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports:

Germany’s top diplomat Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called off their planned meeting at the last minute. The announcement was then confirmed by a Netanyahu spokesman.

The move came a day after Netanyahu issued Gabriel with a clear ultimatum: If the foreign minister met with human rights groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, he would call off their talks. Gabriel had said earlier that such a cancellation would be “regrettable,” but that he would not bend to the demands.

Pointing to Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern’s visit coinciding with German Foreign Minister Gabriel’s trip, noted political commentator Benjamin Weinthal said, “While Austria’s Chancellor Kern meets with Netanyahu, Germany’s Foreign Minister opted to meet with anti-Israel BDS groups on his visit.”

According to the watchdog group NGO-Monitor, between 2012 and 2015 at least €4 million of German taxpayer money was allocated to Israeli NGOs, and more than 40 percent of the money went to groups promote the anti-Israel boycott (BDS) and activism aimed at delegitimising the state of Israel. German political parties directly fund and support activist networks through their taxpayer-funded foundations.

Video: EU Funding Anti-Israeli Hate Groups

[Cover image courtesy Pheonix TV, YouTube]