Israeli human rights activists urge Netanyahu to cancel Duterte visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Duterte, who is scheduled to visit Israel early next month

Human rights activists are urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel President Duterte’s invitation to visit the country next month.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that a human rights group also wrote a letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, telling him that “there is no place for a mass murderer and a person who supports rape, shooting women in their sexual organs and bombing schools to meet with Israel’s President”.

In a press briefing today (Tuesday, August 14), presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that would not be a problem for the president if human rights activists persuaded the Israeli government to cancel the visit.

“Good luck to them [human rights activists],” he said. “If they can persuade the prime minister to call off the visit, of course we will call it off. Walang problema.” 

Ties between the Philippines and Israel were strained in 2016 when Duterte favourably compared himself to Adolf Hitler in relation to his war on drugs.

He said: “Hitler massacred three million Jews. There’s three million drug addicts in the Philippines. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.

“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” At this point, he paused, and pointed to himself.

In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was “unfortunate” that Duterte would invoke Hitler to justify his war on drugs, but added that they were convinced he would “ a way to clarify his words.”

The first official visit of a Philippine president to Israel from from 2 to 5 will also include a stop-off in neighbouring Jordan, it was announced today.

Roque said: “After the Israeli visit, the president will also fly to Jordan. We want to promote ties with all peoples of the Middle East.”

This visit may also prove controversial after the president heaped insults onto a cousin of the country’s King earlier this year. 

In May, Jordan committed to donate two helicopters to the Philippines after the president agreed to observe “restraint” in his criticism of then UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Zeid, a Jordanian prince and cousin of King Abdullah, criticised the president for ordering the police to ignore possible probes into alleged human rights violations related to the war on drugs.

In response, the president insulted Al Hussein, and said he had an “empty” head.

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