Deputy FM: Swedish Officials Not Welcome in Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Wednesday that Sweden is on the wrong side of the struggle against terrorism and that Israel will be closing its doors to Swedish diplomats.

The statement came a day after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called for an investigation to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.

“In the clearest manner possible the state of Israel is giving a very sharp message to Sweden that says ‘you are backing terror, you are giving a tail wind to Islamic State to act throughout Europe. In Brussels. In Paris. We saw yesterday in Istanbul.’”

Hotovely said Israel is on the front lines fighting terrorism, and Sweden “in essence is backing it and giving it a tail wind, and the state of Israel in this regard is giving a very sharp message to these sources,” noting how the Swedes fail to understand “which side is fighting terror and…really wants to preserve human life.”

“In my eyes these statements are a bad mix of stupidity and diplomatic foolishness, and the state of Israel in this context is closing the doors to Sweden against official visits in Israel,” she added.

Wallstrom had already earned Israeli disfavor in January 2015, when then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman informed her that neither he nor the president nor prime minister would meet with her, after she suggested that harsh Israeli policies were causing Palestinian terrorism.

However, it was not clear on Wednesday for which Swedish officials Hotovely was rolling up the welcome mat.

Initially, Hotovely made a sweeping announcement that “Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden.”

Her chief of staff Noam Sela told The Times of Israel that the Foreign Ministry had decided not to “advance” requests or visits from various Swedish officials. “Our relations are currently not at their very best, to say the least. We’re not interested in hosting them here.”

This apparently came as news to the Prime Minister’s office. A senior Israeli official said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was unaware of any changes in the policy of barring Swedish officials from entering the country, according to Haaretz.

Later in the day, Sela clarified that only the foreign minister and her deputy would be unwelcome.

Recently, the third deputy speaker of the Swedish parliament, Esabelle Dingizian, was in Israel on an official visit, and a delegation of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences is currently visiting. According to Sela’s clarification, though, these visitors would still be welcome.

Although Hotovely is an MK from the right wing of the Likud party, condemnations of Wallstrom and Sweden’s Mideast policy generally also came from the center and left of the Israeli political spectrum on Wednesday.

“A person who looks at the war on terror worldwide and comes to the conclusion that Israel is the only country whose tactics must be investigated is anti-Semitic,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Likud centrist, charged.

Former Justice Minister, Zionist Camp MK Tsipi Livni, advised Sweden to avoid “meddling” in Israel’s internal affairs.

“We won’t accept any comparison between our security forces fighting against terror and terrorists,” she said in a speech at Tel Aviv University.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog observed that it was “interesting Sweden didn’t respond in the same way when the Paris police killed the terrorists, as they should have,” on November 13.


Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm