Netanyahu orders reprimand of Belgian envoy over meeting with rights groups

Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel deliver joint statements in Jerusalem February 7, 2017.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered the reprimanding of the Belgian Ambassador over a meeting between Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel with representatives of two Israeli rights groups.

Israeli Channel Ten reported that Michel had met with representatives of Israeli human rights group B’tselem and Israeli advocacy group Breaking the Silence during his visit to the region. Both organisations have become popular targets for right wing politicians who accuse them of damaging Israel’s reputation abroad and putting Israeli soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution.

“Israel views with gravity the meeting held today,” a statement from Netanyahu said. “Belgium must decide whether it wants to change direction or continue with an anti-Israeli line.” Netanyahu had met with Michel on Tuesday in Jerusalem. Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from Israeli war veterans and B’tselem are highly critical of Israeli policies and practices towards the Palestinians.

In 2016 Israel passed a law requiring NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments or bodies to provide details of their donations. The legislation was largely seen as targeting left-wing organisations such as B’tselem and Breaking the Silence and drew international criticism.

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