Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

Netanyahu defended his cancellation of a meeting with Germany’s foreign minister, who had insisted on meeting with groups that operate against Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision to cancel a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday.

The Israeli leader had warned Gabriel that he would scrap their appointment if the German diplomat also met with members of anti-Israel NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Responding to the ultimatum, Gabriel chose to meet with the NGOs, saying it will be no “catastrophe” if his talk with Netanyahu is cancelled.

Speaking later in the day at a meeting with contestants in the upcoming annual International Bible Quiz, Netanyahu said he was leading Israel’s foreign relations “to unprecedented growth.”

“But I am doing so based on a proud and assertive national policy, not out of weakness and with a bowed head,” he stated, referring to his cancellation of the meeting with Gabriel.

“My policy is clear: Not to meet with diplomats who visit Israel and meet with organizations that slander IDF soldiers and seek to put our soldiers on trial as war criminals,” Netanyahu said. “Those same diplomats would never dream of doing this in the US or UK, or in any other place. Our soldiers are the basis of our existence. They guard us and we will guard them.”

However, Israel’s relations with Germany “are strong and important and will also continue as such” and will not be affected by this incident, he added.

The Prime Minister’s office said that while diplomats are welcome to meet with representatives of Israeli society, Netanyahu will not meet with those who lend legitimacy to organizations that call for the criminalization of IDF soldiers

“Imagine if foreign diplomats visiting the United States or Britain met with NGOs that call American or British soldiers war criminals. Leaders of those countries would surely not accept this,” the statement read.

Netanyahu’s policy is “not to meet foreign visitors who, on diplomatic trips to Israel, meet with groups that slander IDF soldiers as war criminals. Diplomats are welcome to meet with representatives of civil society but Prime Minister Netanyahu will not meet with those who lend legitimacy to organizations that call for the criminalization of Israeli soldiers,” the statement continued.

Most Moral Army in the World

Gabriel did meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who told him that while Israel was open to criticism from time to time, it must be based on reality, intimating that the attacks leveled by Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem are based on false premises.

“Our army is the most moral army in the world,” Rivlin told Gabriel. “It is an army made up of all our children. We know how to maintain our army as the most moral in the world, and we will continue to do so.”

“We know very well the importance of preserving human life, also when we are talking about the lives of citizens of enemy states, and so we reach out our hands and do all we can to aid the victims of the atrocities just over the border, even when other states who sanctify morality in their words don’t lift a finger,” he said in veiled criticism of many countries that habitually condemn Israel.

Breaking the Silence, an anti-Israel organization, is comprised of veteran IDF combatants who have served since the start of the Second Intifada and are ostensibly committed “to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.” They are financed by foreign bodies and countries, including Germany.

While claiming that their goal is to “raise awareness over the everyday reality of serving in the [so-called] occupied territories and to create a discussion about the cost of military control over a civilian population for so many years,” the NGO refuses to post the names of the soldiers who testify.

B’tselem, supposedly a human-rights organization, is known to publish propaganda against the Jewish state and the IDF.