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Bibi's theatrics

Engel Dagmar Kommentarbild App
Dagmar Engel
April 25, 2017

Prime Minister Netanyahu has missed an opportunity in canceling his meeting with German Foreign Minister Gabriel, writes DW's Dagmar Engel. It underscores the threat to Israel's claim as the only democracy in the region.

Israel Benjamin Netanjahu
Image: Reuters/A. Sultan

So it goes - canceling what would have been a really important meeting. Israel's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blocked substantive discourse, with a flair of theater surrounding a now-canceled meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Presumably, Netanyahu was not interested in discussing the issues most important to Gabriel: The two-state solution, Israel's settlement policy and new laws for NGOs that resemble those in Russia and Turkey. He would have rather discussed Israel's arch nemesis, Iran, and the larger regional conflict in the context of war in Syria and international terrorism.

Kommentarbild Kommentatorenfoto Dagmar Engel
DW's Dagmar Engel

Missed opportunity

Therein lies the danger: The longer the Middle East's foundational conflict lingers, the more the risk of radicalization grows among an entire generation of young Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Now, the radicalization would no longer be under the banner of Hamas, but the so-called "Islamic State" (IS).

Preventing this would be in the common interest of Israel and the various Palestinian factions. Identifying that common interest is the first step in real negotiations, in which Germany and Europe could assume an important role. Israel would never entrust its security to any other country but the US, however Palestinian economic development is an area for European engagement.

Topics for next time

Neither that engagement nor German-Israeli relations hinge on the canceled meeting. Germany's commitment and connection to Israel remains unshaken. It is unfortunate the countries' two foreign ministers will not speak because of tit-for-tat diplomacy; foreign ministers should remain in touch even in the most difficult of circumstances.

An even more unpleasant development is the boost in domestic support Netanyahu receives in trying to interfere with organizations he is opposed to. That sounds more like Russia and Turkey and less like the region's only democracy, Israel. Netanyahu's move against NGOs is another urgent matter for the foreign ministers to discuss - when, not if, they meet again.

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