Netanyahu calls off meeting with Gabriel

The German foreign minister's visit to Israel has turned into a scandal: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with Sigmar Gabriel after the latter met with two NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem, which condemn Israel's settlement policy in the Palestinian territories. Israel hurts its own interests most with such behaviour, some journalists say. Others believe Netanyahu had good reasons for cancelling.

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Politiken (DK) /

You don't snub your best friends

It is his own country that Netanyahu is doing most harm to, Politiken notes, stressing that the German foreign minister isn't the only critic of the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories:

“The US doesn't want to get involved, but Netanyahu will take note of the fact that a spokesman of the US secretary of state has said that human rights groups are an important element of civil society - and that the US sees the settlements as a problem for the peace efforts. Netanyahu has scored points in Israeli politics by putting soldiers who oppose the settlements and human rights activists under pressure. But the head of government neglects his country's interests when he refuses to meet even its best friends. He damages democracy in his country when he tries to stop human rights groups. And he neglects the security of his country when he believes he can strengthen it by oppressing another people.”

Journal 21 (CH) /

Perpetrator's country must show understanding

Journal 21 evokes the trauma of the Shoah to explain the scandal between Netanyahu and Gabriel:

“Physical and psychological traumas continue their destructive work when they're suppressed or cloaked in silence. That was the case in Germany after the Second World War. True, on the political level much effort was put into the so-called 'process of coming to terms with the past'. In private life, however, any discussion of feelings of shame or blame was often lacking. But that was also the case in Israel, where the traumas of those persecuted were barely discussed at all in the public domain before the start of the Eichmann trial in 1961. ... Such traumas can perhaps go some way to explaining why many otherwise so loquacious Israelis lose their composure when they're criticised for their behaviour. Outsiders should show understanding for the repercussions of traumatic experiences, especially in the land of the former perpetrators.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Good that Gabriel didn't bow to pressure

"Now the sparks are flying," writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung, delighted:

“So far the maxim was that anything that came from Israel had to be supported or at least tolerated. The dissent on the subject on settlements was dismissed by Angela Merkel who said that they agreed to disagree. The topic of attacks against human rights organisations was left for background discussions. When Berlin, angered by a new settlement law, cancelled government consultations, this was glossed over with excuses about a full agenda in the election year. Netanyahu may have concluded from this tiptoeing that he could stop Gabriel from meeting with the left-wing groups by making the right threats, but fortunately Gabriel didn't give in. He has shown that even during a trip to Jerusalem you can sit on the fence without losing. During his first visit as foreign minister he has shown more courage than his predecessor - and assumed more responsibility vis-à-vis Israel.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Foreign minister's undiplomatic conduct

Pointing to the special relationship between the two countries Der Tagesspiegel criticises Gabriel:

“Erdoğan's Turkey, Putin's Russia and Xi Jinping's China cannot be compared with Israel. But this comparison was implicit when Gabriel said that talks with NGOs had been customary in many countries for many years. In these days during which the Holocaust is being commemorated this is tantamount to a provocation. And for the German side to try to explain how democratic states should behave borders on the insulting. Netanyahu, never one to shy away from a confrontation, naturally feels provoked. ... And all this on Gabriel's first foreign visit! A politician who can be credited with having visited Israel for years, who talks openly about Germany's past - which is also his family's past - and who campaigns for democracy. But also one who doesn't always go about it in a very diplomatic way.”