German president visits Israel in wake of Netanyahu spat

German president visits Israel in wake of Netanyahu spat
2 min read
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Israel on Saturday as part of a three-day trip which will include a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (2ndL) arrived in Israel on Saturday [Getty]

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Israel on Saturday as part of a three-day trip which will include a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Steinmeier will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday and is also scheduled to meet Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin.

On Monday he will meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters, his office said.

It is Steinmeier's first visit to Israel since taking up the post in March.

The trip comes days after a spat between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Germany's foreign minister.

Netanyahu cancelled an April 25 meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after the visiting diplomat declined to call off meetings with human rights groups critical of Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Gabriel met members of Breaking The Silence, which seeks to document Israeli military abuses against Palestinians, and of B'Tselem, which works on a number of human rights issues and strongly opposes Israeli settlement building.

He said at the time that it would be "unthinkable" to cancel a meeting with Netanyahu if he met critics of the German government during a visit to Germany.

Steinmeier is not scheduled to meet either group.  

Such disputes have arisen in the past between visiting foreign officials and Israel's government.

In February, Israel reprimanded the Belgian ambassador after his country's premier, Charles Michel, met members of both B'Tselem and Breaking The Silence during a visit.

There was no public rebuke when British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met members of Peace Now, an anti-settlement NGO, during a visit in March.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. Israeli settlement building is considered one of the major obstacles to resolving the conflict and is widely condemned by the international community.