Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Thursday, characterizing her recent statements calling for an investigation of Israeli “extrajudicial killings” as “outrageous, immoral, unjust and just wrong.”
He later added another adjective – “stupid” – though he stopped short of endorsing comments made a day earlier by National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who intimated that Wallstrom’s comments were anti-Semitic.
Speaking at the annual New Year’s reception for the foreign press, Netanyahu said he did not examine Wallstrom’s motives.
“Israel is not above criticism, but it should be held to the same standards that everyone else is being held to,” he said.
“People are defending themselves against assailants wielding knives about to stab them to death and they shoot the people, and that is extrajudicial killings?” So why, the prime minister asked, were the killing of the recent terrorists in San Bernadino, California, or the shooting recently of a knife-wielding terrorist in Paris also not “extrajudicial killings?” “Does the Swedish foreign minister suggest there be examinations of what happened there in Paris or in the United States?” he asked. “This is definitely wrong and singles out Israel in an absurd way.”
Netanyahu also said that a double-standard was being used against Israel as well in the sharp criticism of the proposed NGO Transparency Law being championed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. It would obligate NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments to detail that information and have their representatives wear special identifying tags in the Knesset.
In his first public statement in support of the bill that has been roundly criticized by the US and some European governments, Netanyahu said he failed to understand how transparency is anti-democratic.
“How is divulging foreign government-funding anti-democratic?” he asked. “I think it is the most obvious request in any democracy.”
To support his view, the prime minister quoted from a US House of Representatives resolution from 2015 on rules for the 114th Congress mandating that any witness testifying before a House committee be required to submit in advance written statements of the proposed testimony.
In addition, the resolution mandates that those testifying must include a “disclosure of any federal grants or contracts, or contracts or payments originating with a foreign government, received during the current calendar year or either of the two previous calendar years by the witness or by an entity represented by the witness and related to the subject matter of the hearing.”
The proposed legislation, Netanyahu said, is the least to expect considering the “use and abuse of NGOs.”
This type of transparency is practiced in other countries, he said, noting that by the criticism of the law “Israelis being held to a different standard once again. If there are universal standards, that’s fine. But a double standard, or in the case of Israel a triple standard, that is unacceptable.”
Turning to the issue of wider relations with the EU, Netanyahu distinguished between Israel’s relations with the EU institutions and those with various European states, which he said have been “intensifying and growing.”
He said that the EU, like the UN and the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, is a bureaucracy that is entrenched in set patterns. As a result, he said, referring to the recent EU decision to label products from the settlements, “we get the absurdity of the EU in Brussels, from European soil, labeling products of Israeli citizens and of Jews. And the last time that was done on the soil of Europe was 70 years ago,” referring to the Third Reich.
He noted that there are some 200 conflicts in the world over territory, and the only place the EU is labeling products is from “the Jewish State of Israel.
“I find that appalling,” the prime minister said. “We have a real issue here. I think it is a moral issue.”
Netanyahu said that “something is going in the wrong direction” in the EU. Another indication of this, he said, was the EU’s involvement in illegal construction taking part in Area C of the territories that are under Israeli control, “without authorization and against the accepted rules, and there is a clear attempt to create political realities.”
When Israel removes those structures, it is condemned, creating “a Catch-22,” he said.
“I think we have to reset our relations with the EU,” he said. “I hope we do this on better terms.”
The prime minister said he spoke of this briefly last year at the climate conference in Paris with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and told her “we have to figure a way to resolve this, to set things on the right course.”
Just as in the UN, “in the EU establishment there is a natural tendency to single out Israel” and to treat it in ways that the EU does not treat other countries, especially other democracies, he said.
Netanyahu also related to the controversy regarding the appointment of former settlement leader to Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil, saying that he stands by that appointment and believes he will make an excellent ambassador.
Despite Brazil’s failure since August to approve the appointment, Netanyahu gave no indication that he intends to withdraw it and name someone else.
The annual reception for the foreign press began with a brief concert given by transgender singer Dana International, who said Israel allowed her to live as she wanted and urged the journalists to “be gentle with Israel.” And it ended with a toast to outgoing foreign press spokesman Mark Regev, who was appointed ambassador to Britain, and whom Netanyahu said has not only been an “exceptional spokesman,” but also someone who has given him “wise counsel.”