Relations between Israel and Sweden deteriorated further on Wednesday as Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström called off a visit to Israel.
The development was an apparent response to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement in December that he would refuse to meet with his Swedish counterpart after Stockholm became the first major European Union member to recognize Palestinian statehood last October. That decision prompted Israel to recall its ambassador to Stockholm, Isaac Bachman.
“The foreign minister has decided to postpone her visit to Israel and Palestine. Instead of next week it will take place later. No date is yet decided,” Margot Wallström’s spokesman Erik Boman told AFP.
The Lieberman snub was apparently due more to the way in which Sweden conducted itself than the actual support for the Palestinians, which several other European countries did soon afterwards. Sweden, it was charged, had arrived at its decision to recognize a Palestinian state in secret, and then refused to consider Israeli arguments against it.
At the time, Lieberman derided Stockholm’s understanding of complex Mideast politics. “Relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA,” he quipped.
Wallström riposted in kind, saying that “I will be happy to send him a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner,” she said. “And you also need to cooperate and you need a good manual and I think we have most of those elements.”