A delegation representing Swedish opposition parties just concluded a weeklong visit to Israel aimed at improving ties and mutual understanding, Ynet reported.
The six members of the Swedish parliament were part of the center-right coalition up until the 2014 elections when the left took power. Their visit was initiated by the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm.
The group’s leader, Mathias Sundin of the Liberal Party, was candid about widespread hostility toward Israel in Sweden, but stressed that the situation was not quite as bad as it has recently seemed.
“Israel has a lot of friends in Sweden, and I’m one of them. We aren’t only in parliament, but also amongst the Swedish public,” Sundin said.
Sundin says the negative perception of Israel comes from what Swedes hear coming from the U.N. “Swedes hold what the U.N. says in high regard,” he said. “They don’t understand that the condemnations of Israel they hear coming from the U.N. are based on the accusations of dictatorships who criticize Israel automatically.”
“Sweden has had a pro-Palestine policy ever since Olof Palme was prime minister (beginning in 1969),” Sundin continued. “I would also ascribe a part of it to anti-Semitism. I wouldn’t say that anti-Semitism is a huge problem [in Sweden], but it does exist.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was also cited as a factor. She became persona non grata in Israel after her tirade several months ago attacking Israel for “extra-judicial” killings of Palestinians who were shot down after carrying out terror attacks.
Another of the Swedish parliamentarians said that Wallstrom “only believes in a pro-Palestinian foreign policy. Any time we begin arguing about the issue, she gets upset and starts on with her attacks against Israel. One of the most important things which we brought with us from Sweden is the fact that not everyone in Sweden agrees with the foreign minister. It’s actually quite the opposite; we don’t like her very much.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials added that “very few Swedes are ready to publicly defend Israel due to the worry that they will be ostracized by their neighbors, co-workers, etc., and this is our biggest problem.”