Wallström not welcome in Israel

2:12 min

A planned visit to Israel by the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has been cancelled, as no Israeli official was prepared to receive her, Swedish Radio News reports. Opposition party members took the opportunity to criticize the government's autumn decision to recognize a Palestinian state.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had planned to visit Israel this Thursday, to take part in a seminar in memory of the Swede Raoul Wallenberg in Tel Aviv. The Swedish Foreign Office says the trip was cancelled for scheduling reasons.

But according to Swedish Radio News, the real reason is that Wallström was not welcome in Israel. Israeli officials have refused to meet with her, and it would have been embarrassing for the Foreign minister to visit the country unofficially.

Emmanuel Nachshon at the Israeli Foreign Office confirms that Margot Wallström would not have been able to see the Foreign Minister, or the Prime Minister, if she had gone to Israel as planned.

"The Swedish Foreign Minister, she would not have received any official meetings in Israel, and it's not a matter of political perspective, I think that all decision makers in Israel agree that what Sweden did is a highly unfriendly act," he said.

Nachshon told Swedish Radio News that it is not a secret that Israel sees Sweden's recognition of Palestine as a particularly unfriendly act against Israel. Earlier this year, Nachshon's boss, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the biggest challenge Israel faces in 2015 will be Western Europe's view of Israeli policies, not Iran or the Palestinians.

In a speech to Israeli envoys to the European Union, Lieberman compared Sweden's and Ireland's conduct with concessions made by European leaders to Nazi Germany in Munich 1938, when Czechoslovakia was abandoned. "Now they are making all kinds of excuses to abandon Israel, even though we are the only country in the Middle East to represent Western values," he said.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Wallström had considered to go ahead with the trip to Israel, despite the lack of official meetings, but according to Swedish Radio News, this would have meant the trip was considered a private affair. And that, in turn, would not have made her eligible for the necessary security arrangements at the Raoul Wallenberg seminar in Tel Aviv.

The Swedish Foreign Office says that Margot Wallström plans to travel to Israel later this year, once the Israeli elections are over. But Emmanuel Nachshon at the Israeli Foreign Office does not hold this as likely. He told Swedish Radio News's reporter Cecilia Uddén: "Don't wait until the Swedish Foreign Minister comes here in order to visit me, otherwise it could take a long time"

Opposition party members took the opportunity Thursday to voice their criticism of the government's decision to recognize Palestine.

"I see this as an effect of the clumsy handling of the entire issue. The question is how the government looks at the risk that Sweden's chance to make its voice heard could deteriorate," said Karin Enström, the opposition Moderate party's foreign affairs spokesperson.

Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberal People's Party, said that Sweden's recognition of Palestine was too hasty. "This means that we look one-sided, which is neither prudent nor constructive," he said to news agency TT.