Under intense attack from the far-right Netanyahu government, Israel’s anti-occupation NGOs B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence got support from an unlikely source today: the Trump Administration, whose State Department defended the groups’ rights to express viewpoints contrary to the current government’s, saying it is “vital to democracy.”
Netanyahu has made a concerted effort to isolate the NGOs from the international community, condemning any involvement the groups have with the United Nations, and refusing to meet with the visiting German Foreign Minister to punish him for meeting with figures from the NGOs.
Netanyahu insists the NGOs “slander” the Israeli military and that he won’t tolerate anyone meeting with them. While the State Department said it was Netanyahu’s right to refuse to meet with whomever he wants, they don’t appear to be okay with his general hostility toward them as such.
While this is largely in keeping with the State Department’s position under the Obama Administration’s it’s surprising to hear during Trump’s time in office, as he has generally been supportive of Netanyahu in whatever he decides, and this would be an odd issue for him to differ with Netanyahu over.