Sweden will not have any role to play in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process as a result of Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s hostility toward Israel, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
The statement came as the ministry announced that its deputy director-general for Western Europe, Aviv Shir-On, called in Swedish ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser to protest Wallstrom’s comments.
The decision to summons Nesser was made by Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who directed Shir-On to protest not only the statements, but to register the government and the country’s anger at what they see as Sweden’s imbalance and hostile attitude toward Israel.
Wallstrom on Tuesday called for an investigation to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during the current wave of terrorism. “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability,” she said during a parliamentary debate, according to the Swedish news agency TT.
The Foreign Ministry said Wallstrom’s comments indicate that “she does not understand what is happening in our region and is apparently not aware of the difficult situation facing Israeli citizens, and the continuous danger of murderous terrorism.”
Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold, speaking to a group from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that anyone attacking Israel over its right to defend itself from terrorism is “in practical terms encouraging terrorism.”
Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments served as a clarification to remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials in the wake of Wallstrom’s words.
Speaking during a tour of Samaria with cadets in the Foreign Ministry diplomatic training course, Hotovely said “Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tail wind to Islamic State to act throughout Europe.”
Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden,” Hotovely said.
Knesset House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud), meanwhile, called in a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein for a cancellation of the Israel-Sweden Parliamentary Friendship Group. The letter was also sent to the chairman of the group, MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union).
According to Bitan, Wallstrom “positions the terrorists as victims, thus encouraging hatred of Israel in the world and backing terrorism.”
Ben-Reuven responded that the friendship group will continue defending Israel and explaining what is wrong with what Wallstrom’s comments.
“The Swedish foreign minister’s behavior and statements are very serious.
Israel has a moral army and a strong judiciary. Therefore, Sweden and no other country can involve itself in our internal processes,” Ben-Reuven stated.
He said that because her comments were so harsh, there was a need “to explain ourselves to the Swedish parliamentarians and public, by showing Israel’s stances and why they are just.
We cannot run away from the arena; we must struggle and win.”
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, praised Sweden and welcomed the call for an inquiry into Israeli “extrajudicial killings.”
The PA Foreign Ministry called on all countries to endorse “this courageous and humane” position, saying it is aimed at preserving the peace process.
The ministry urged all countries to put aside “political fears” and ignore Israel’s “systematic state terrorism.” It accused Israel of hindering the implementation of international law.
The PA ministry condemned Israel’s “ferocious campaign and political terrorism” against the Swedish foreign minister. It said the campaign was designed to cover up Israeli “crimes” against the Palestinians.
The ministry also condemned Israel for pursuing its “brutal extrajudicial executions” of Palestinians and renewed its call for an investigation into “war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, expressed hope that the Arab League secretary- general would visit Sweden as soon as possible to voice support for Stockholm’s “brave political and humane positions.”
In addition, Khaled denounced Israeli opposition figures, such as opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who also came out against Wallstrom’s statements, saying they were “feeding fascist and radical trends” in Israel.