Israel summons Belgian ambassador over pro-Palestinian NGOs meeting

Employees work at offices of Israeli rights group 'Breaking the Silence' in Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV - Israel on Thursday reprimanded the Belgian ambassador after the country's prime minister met with anti-settlement and leftwing NGOs, the foreign ministry said.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with representatives of leftwing NGOs Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem during his visit to Israel this week, angering his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu said he viewed the meeting to be of the "utmost gravity".
"The Belgian government needs to decide whether it wants to change direction or continue with an anti-Israel line," a statement from his office said.
Israel's Deputy Director-General for Europe Rodica Radian Gordon on Thursday reprimanded Belgian ambassador Olivier Belle, foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.
The ambassador "took note and will convey it to Brussels," he added.
Israeli NGOs defending the Palestinian cause say they have been under severe pressure for months.
In July 2016, the Israeli parliament approved a controversial law requiring NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments to declare it.
Critics say the law targets leftwing groups campaigning for Palestinian rights and opposing settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Right-wing NGOs tend instead to be funded by private individuals, also often outside Israel, and as such are not subject to the restrictions.
B'Tselem defends human rights in the Palestinian territories, while Breaking the Silence collects testimonies from Israeli soldiers operating in the territories.