Israeli President Shimon Peres was met by political anger and protests over his country’s policies toward the Palestinians during a visit to Norway Monday.
Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in trying to bring Israel and the Palestinians together in Norwegian-mediated peace talks, is the first Israeli head of state to visit the country.
Norway’s King Harald, who plays a ceremonial role and is not part of the government, welcomed Peres to the royal palace on Monday as police dispersed demonstrators outside. More protests were planned by 24 organizations.
“When the government invites the Israeli president on a state visit, one can only ask what signal Norway wants to send,” said Kathrine Jensen, head of the Norwegian Palestine Committee. She demanded that the Norwegian government “condemn Israeli occupation policy and their human rights abuses.”
Norwegian-Israeli relations have soured over the past decade as Norway’s left-leaning governments took a critical stance against Israel. Unlike many western countries, Norway refused to classify Hamas as terrorists, and the government’s rich oil fund has divested shares in companies accused of contributing to building Israeli homes in Yehudah and Shomron.