Germany never committed to boycott 'Breaking the Silence'

PM office requested to clarify German President intentions whether to meet factious organizations; no commitment forthcoming.

Mordechai Sones,

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Flash 90

Yediot Ahronot revealed that the Prime Minister's Office requested to clarify whether German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier would meet with representatives of factious organizations, but the German president's staff refused to commit. Last week Netanyahu canceled a meeting with the German Foreign Minister after the latter met with "Breaking the Silence" and "B'Tselem".

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Israel last week and met with representatives of Breaking the Silence, in opposition to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request. This morning (Thursday), Yediot Ahronot revealed that his colleague, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, might also be on his way, further exacerbating the crisis between the two countries.

Israel fears that Steinmeier, despite being touted as an old friend of Israel, will meet with "Breaking the Silence" members during his working visit to Israel next week. Last week, the German FMs meeting with representatives of the organization led Netanyahu to cancel the meeting with him. Gabriel later refused to receive a phone call from Netanyahu.

Steinmeier, who previously served as Germany's foreign minister, will arrive in Israel on Sunday for his first visit since assuming office as president. In Jerusalem, they tried to clarify with Berlin officials whether he intends to meet representatives of the organization in Israel, but the president's staff refused to divulge whether Steinmeier or anyone on his behalf would meet them.

Because the itinerary has not yet been finalized, and many "holes" remain in the schedule, Jerusalem is concerned that Germany may coordinate a meeting at the last minute. Last week the Germans refrained from publishing details of Gabriel's meeting with Breaking the Silence representatives until the last minute. The meeting's venue was publicized just a short while before it commenced.

However, political sources believe that Steinmeier will demonstrate required sensitivity and will ultimately not meet with them, knowing that this would mean a serious and open diplomatic crisis with Israel - something Steinmeier, the veteran diplomat, would certainly want to avoid.

Steinmeier is scheduled to meet with President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as to deliver a speech at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also scheduled to visit Givat Haviva and meet with Jewish and Arab children. The Breaking the Silence organization refuses to comment on the possibility that they may meet with Steinmeier and refuses to answer any questions regarding diplomacy.


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