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Israel reiterates that Wallström is unwelcome there

Published onsdag 13 januari 2016 kl 15.10
"Applies only to Mrs Wallström"
(1:10 min)
Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's current deputy foreign minister. File photo: AP Photo/Emil Salman
Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's current deputy foreign minister. File photo: AP Photo/Emil Salman

Swedish officials are not welcome in Israel, according to the Times of Israel, which cited remarks by the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, which were later narrowed to only include Sweden's Foreign Minister.

“Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden,” Hotovely said, according to the Times, but later Emmanuel Nahshon, the spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told Radio Sweden, that the statement only applied to Sweden's Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, and not to the rest of the Swedish government.

"This is something that we have already said a year ago. This statement applies to Mrs. Wallström, given the nature of her incendiary statements against the Israelis," Nahshon told Radio Sweden.

"She belittles the consequences of danger of the wave of terror, of which we are victims here in Israel," said Nahshon.

"Mrs. Wallström cannot really visit Israel, because she has already stated repeatedly that she's against Israel," Nahshon remarked. 

Wallström said on Tuesday that she was both a friend of Israel and of Palestine, but Nahshon quipped, "Well, you know what they say - With friends like those, who needs enemies?"

This evening, the Swedish Ambassador to Israel was called to the Foreign Office in Jerusalem to receive an official protest.

On Tuesday, Wallström called for an investigation into whether the Israeli military carried out "extrajudicial executions" of Palestinians, but the newspaper notes that Israel's policy to discourage visits from top Swedish government officials has been in place since before Hovotely took office, and that Wallström had cancelled a trip there last year after being told that the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister would all be unavailable, and that she'd need to arrange her own security detail.

Wallström has been criticised also in Sweden. The leader of the Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, told the news agency TT that "Margot Wallström has taken a very one-sided position when it comes to the Israel-Palestine-conflict, which completely differs from previous Swedish positions."
And Karin Enström, the foreign policy spokesperson of the biggest opposition party, the Moderates, says the government has paved the way to these bad relations by its "inapt" way of recognising Palestine in 2014.

But in an interview with TT, the political scientist Anders Persson, who has specialised in Middle Eastern Studies, reminds that also Wallström's predecessor Carl Bildt, of the Moderate Party, was banished by Jerusalem. "As far as I can see, this is a policy that has been in place unofficially for about a year. Now it is made official," he said.

Meanwhile, another political scientist, professor Christer Jönsson, who also specialises in diplomacy, tells TT that Israel is hypersensitive when it comes to criticism, but that Wallström on the other hand uses what he deems is an unnecessarily harsh tone against the country.

"Not all statements from our foreign minister are well considered and they ought to have been filtered through people in the diplomatic corps," Jönsson told TT.

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