Norway’s aspirations to be a “moral superpower” and play a key role in the
Middle East peace process could be constrained by its tense relationship with
Israel, anti-Semitism at home and its approach to Hamas, according to a
WikiLeaks cable published by the Oslo-based Aftenposten paper.
written on February 13, 2009, by Kevin Johnson, the deputy chief of the US
Embassy in Norway, summarizes Oslo’s aspirations to be a leader in the Middle
East peace negotiations.
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The cable could serve as an important source
document for those seeking to understand the difficulty Israel has in getting
its narrative across in Europe.
According to the analysis in this cable,
the Oslo process seemed to herald a new peacemaker role for Norway, which it
relished. But as the Oslo Accords crumbled, “ties between Norway and Israel
weakened,” the cable read.
“The Lebanon wars had a major impact, with
approximately 20,000 Norwegians serving in UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon
from 1978 to 1998. These soldiers came home with sympathetic reports about
Palestinian refugees and negative impressions of Israelis. Israeli settlements
and walls in the West Bank, and invasions of Lebanon and Gaza contributed to
Norwegians’ increasingly negative view of Israel,” the US diplomat
“Norwegian society values dialogue above all,” the cable read.
“Talk, even without any expectation of results, is seen as valuable. Anyone who
draws a line and refuses to talk to an opposing party is seen as a radical
unilateralist. Conversely, Norwegians are extremely opposed to the use of
military force to achieve goals, no matter how laudable.”
this aversion to force, according to the cable, is the fact that “Norwegians do
not generally see any threats” and do not see a danger from terrorism.
illustrate this particular “societal attitude,” the cable points out that a man
who shot up Oslo’s synagogue in 2006, planned to behead the Israeli ambassador
and attack Israeli and US embassies was “convicted only of grave vandalism.”
cable said, however, that his “strict sentence showed some understanding of the
severity of the charges.”
The man convicted of the shooting, Arfan Qadeer
Bhatti, was given an eight-year sentence in 2008.
Norway, according to
the cable, has engaged with Hamas, and the organization’s vow to destroy Israel
“was ignored or characterized as only rhetoric by the
“Although the GON [Government of Norway] would deny it,
there are clear signs that contacts with Hamas go beyond a tactical desire for
dialogue to a level of sympathy for Hamas positions. The FM once told DCM
[deputy chief of mission] for example that one could not expect Hamas to
recognize Israel without knowing which borders Israel will have. While the FM
expresses some sympathy for Hamas’ positions only in unguarded moments, other
prominent Norwegians go further.”
The cable also gives backing to those
who argue that Israel’s difficult position in much of Europe is fueled by the
large Muslim minorities there.
“Norway’s growing minority population also
plays a role in hardening public attitude toward Israel,” the cable read. “The
primary minority groups in Norway (25% of Oslo’s population) are Moslem and stem
from Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. They are interested in Middle
East politics and not surprisingly very critical of Israel.”
wrote in the cable that with “traditional Norwegians” already independently
quite critical of Israel, “it is likely that this viewpoint will be re-enforced
by the growing minority groups in Norway.”Aftenposten
gained access to the cache of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables that
WikiLeaks started releasing late last month and that were given to a limited
number of newspapers, including The Guardian
in Britain, Le Monde
in France, El
in Spain and Der Spiegel