‘We’re not like the Nazis’: Netanyahu said to chide German FM on Gaza ‘famine’ remark

Heated exchange reportedly occurs after Annalena Baerbock charges Israel pushing Gaza toward starvation; Germany complains about ‘distorted’ leaks

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf/GPO)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly bickered with Germany’s foreign minister regarding the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, with the premier telling her, “We’re not like the Nazis.”

The Wednesday conversation apparently turned contentious when German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock asserted that Israel was “driving Gaza toward famine.”

In the exchange reported by Channel 13, Baerbock offered to show Netanyahu and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer “photos of hungry [Gazan] children on my phone.” Netanyahu responded to the gesture, telling the German official, “Come and see the pictures of the markets in Gaza, the beaches in Gaza, there’s no famine there.”

The report came amid photos circulating on social media showing stocked market stalls and Gazans enjoying a hot day on the beach, after the Israel Defense Forces withdrew all of its maneuvering ground forces from the Strip two weeks ago, prompting displaced Palestinians to attempt to return to their homes.

Baerbock reportedly recommended that Israel stop circulating the photos of life supposedly returning to normal in the Palestinian enclave “as they don’t portray the real situation in Gaza. There is hunger in Gaza.”

At this point, Netanyahu was said to have raised his voice and insisted conditions in Gaza were improving: “It’s real. It’s reality. It’s not like what the Nazis staged, we’re not like the Nazis who produced fake images of a manufactured reality.”

Netanyahu was likely referring to the Theresienstadt “model” ghetto set up by the Nazis during World War Two to deceive international observers as to the conditions Jews were living in.

Palestinians enjoy the beach in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024. (AFP)

According to the Channel 13 report, the German foreign minister responded, “Are you saying that our doctors in the field in Gaza aren’t telling the truth? Are you saying that the international media is lying?”

On Friday, Germany said it complained to Netanyahu’s staff after what it described as a “distorted” account of a row was leaked to the press.

Asked about the report after a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting on the Italian island of Capri, Baerbock said that “we are not reporting on confidential discussions.”

“The German ambassador was in contact with the prime minister’s staff and made it clear what we think of such distorting publications,” she said. “Regret was expressed to us regarding the publication, whose source is unclear.”

Germany’s ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert tweeted that “key points” in the media accounts were“wrong and misleading,” but did not specify what was the issue.

Baerbock and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrived in Israel on Tuesday in the wake of Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel overnight Saturday-Sunday, in which it launched some 350 attack drones and missiles at the country.

Germany urged Israel to show restraint in the aftermath of the attack, warning that any additional direct hostilities with Iran could send the Middle East spiraling into an all-out war.

“Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly,” Baerbock said after meeting with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials before departing Israel for a Group of Seven meeting that she said would discuss Iran sanctions.

“A spiraling escalation would serve no one, not Israel’s security, not the many dozens of hostages still in the hands of Hamas, not the suffering population of Gaza, not the many people in Iran who are themselves suffering under the regime, and not the third countries in the region who simply want to live in peace,” she continued.

During a Wednesday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu told the members that both Baerbock and Cameron had “all kinds of suggestions and advice.” While it was appreciated, Israel would nevertheless “make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself.”

Netanyahu’s office said earlier that during his meetings with the German and British foreign ministers, the prime minister “reiterated that Israel would maintain its right to self-defense.”

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when Hamas-led terrorists burst through the border and killed some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, rampaging through communities in southern Israel and mowing down partygoers at a music festival. The terrorists also kidnapped some 253 people to Gaza, where around 129 are still held hostage.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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