Tuesday

25th Feb 2020

Sweden and Israel in diplomatic spat over 'scandalous' remark

  • Sweden tried to defuse a diplomatic row with Israel over comments by its foreign minister Wallstroem (Photo: Neil Howard)

Sweden tried to defuse a diplomatic row with Israel over comments by its foreign minister on Sunday (6 December) but it is not the first spat the two countries have had over words.

An official statement by Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven and foreign minister Margot Wallstroem, published Sunday, deplored “that statements on the situation in the Middle East by representatives of the Swedish Government are misunderstood and blown out of reasonable proportion”.

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  • Former EU commissioner spoke of 'extrajudicial killings' (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Earlier that day, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had condemned Wallstroem's “scandalous statements” on Israel's response to recent attacks by Palestinians.

According to press agency Reuters, Israeli law enforcement has killed 103 Palestinians since 1 October, 64 of whom had been identified as assailants.

The disputed comments from Wallstroem were made last Friday, in the Swedish parliament.

“And likewise, the response must not be of the kind -- and this is what I say in other situations where the response is such that it results in extrajudicial executions or is disproportionate in that the number of people killed on that side exceeds the original number of deaths many times over,” the minister had said according to a translated transcription published by Reuters.

Netanyahu and Loefven spoke on the phone Sunday, in a conversation in which the Israeli leader reportedly told his Swedish colleague that foreign minister Wallstroem adhered to a double standard.

“I didn’t see [Wallstroem] say that last week in San Bernardino, or in the terror attack in Paris, when police forces killed the terrorists, that these were extrajudicial executions, as she said about Israel,” Netanyahu said according to Israeli media.

But Loefven and Wallstroem denied that the latter had spoke of extrajudicial executions in Israel.

“The minister for foreign affairs did not, as alleged, say that extrajudicial executions occur in Israel; she talked in general terms about principles of international law concerning the right of self-defence and the importance of the principles of proportionality and distinction,” Sunday's official statement said.

It is the second such war over words between Sweden and Israel in three weeks.

In November, Jerusalem responded angrily to a statement made by Wallstroem shortly after the terror attacks in Paris.

“To counteract the radicalisation we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” she had said.

In response, Israel's foreign ministry lashed out at her.

“It would seem that the Swedish foreign minister is afflicted with total political blindness,” Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said according to The Times of Israel.

In October 2014, Loefven's centre-left cabinet in its first month in office took steps to recognize Palestine as a state, in a move which angered Israel.

The Scandinavian country is the first and so far only sitting EU member to have recognised the state of Palestine, although other European nations like Iceland had done so earlier. EU member states like Poland, Cyprus and Malta also recognised the state of Palestine, but they did so before they were EU members.

Around 70 percent of the members of the United Nations have recognised Palestine.

However, sour relations with Israel are not unique to Sweden's centre-left government. In 2009, its centre-right government also had several fallings-out with Israel.

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