German minister outraged over Israel’s refusal to let him into Gaza Strip
(WJC)–The German government has criticized Israel for not allowing Development Cooperation Minister Dirk Niebel travel to the Gaza Strip. “Refusing a German development minister entry to the Gaza Strip is a great foreign policy mistake on the part of the Israeli government,” Niebel, a member of the Free Democratic Party, said, adding: “I am saddened that Israel is making it so difficult for its truest friend to understand its actions.”
Niebel wanted to visit a German-funded water purification plant in Gaza and meet with UN aid workers there. He said no meetings with Hamas officials had been envisaged. The Liberal politician said his Gaza visit had received the go-ahead by Israel’s Defense Ministry, but the Foreign Ministry had later intervened and denied him permission to go to Gaza.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement in Berlin that he also “regretted” the decision by the Israeli government, and underlined that Germany and the European Union want to see an end to the Gaza blockade.
Niebel, who is a vice-president of the German-Israeli Society (DIG) and usually a staunch supporterIsrael, said time was running out for the government in Jerusalem “to move away from hard-line policies” in light of international protests over its Gaza policy and faltering efforts to achieve a viable peace deal with the Palestinians. “For Israel, it is five minutes to twelve,” he said, adding that the country must take the opportunity “to stop the clock while it can.” He added: “If the Israeli government wants support for its new Gaza strategy then it must ensure more transparency and a new partnership. The blockade was “not a sign of strength but rather evidence of unspoken fear.”
The deputy leader of the parliamentary caucus of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, Andreas Schockenhoff, said Israel was only “hurting its own interests” and demanded “unfettered access” to Gaza for international guests and officials.
Israel reacted with surprise to Niebel’s criticism. An unnamed Foreign Ministry official told the German news agency DPA: “There is a clear policy…We have explained that we do not allow the entry of foreign politicians to the Gaza Strip.” He added that Israel feared Hamas would exploit visits by foreign politicians for propaganda purposes which in turn would also weaken the more moderate government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
During his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Niebel met with Abbas (picture).
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.