Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday asked his Belgian counterpart, Charles Michel, to defund organizations he described as anti-Israel or harmful to Israeli soldiers.
During the meeting between the two leaders in Jerusalem, Netanyahu “demanded the Belgian government stop funding organizations that act against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel, including transferring funds indirectly,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The request came a day after Netanyahu asked British Prime Minister Theresa May to halt funding for what he called nonprofit organizations that are “hostile to Israel.” May was set to conduct a “reexamination” of Britain’s approach to funding NGOs, Netanyahu told reporters accompanying him on an official visit to the UK.
“I gave them [the British] the [names of] the various NGOs that the government of Britain funds, among them Breaking the Silence, and I asked her to stop funding them,” Netanyahu said.
Breaking the Silence collects testimonies from former Israel Defense Forces soldiers about alleged human rights violations they witness in the Palestinian territories during their military service. It has often locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass and its numerous critics have denounced its reports as dishonest, inaccurate, and part of an advocacy campaign intended to harm Israel’s image overseas.
When it was pointed out that the British government does not fund Breaking the Silence, the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel hurried to issue a clarification that said Britain funded Breaking the Silence and other NGOs indirectly, via organizations such as Christian Aid and CAFOD, the Catholic international development charity.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Belgium’s Michel asked Netanyahu about the so-called Regulation Law, approved by the Knesset on Monday, which legalizes West Bank construction on privately owned Palestinian land. Israel has faced broad international criticism over the law, including from Britain, France, the United Nations and neighboring Jordan. The United States has not commented.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s stance that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace, and that the real obstacle is the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any borders,” the PMO’s statement said.
During his trip to the Jewish state, Michel also met with President Reuven Rivlin and young Belgians living in Israel. He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told Michel that Israel’s fight against jihadist terrorism was preventing an even worse migrant crisis in Europe.
AFP contributed to this report.