Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom infuriated Jerusalem on Friday by accusing it of extrajudicial executions and disproportionate force in responding to the current wave of Palestinian terrorism.
According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Wallstrom – who has triggered several diplomatic incidents with Israel since taking up her post in October 2014 – was asked in the Swedish parliament by Liberal MP Mathias Sundin why she has not condemned in strong terms the recent wave of terrorism in Israel.
Wallstrom said that the attacks were “terrible” and “must not happen,” and added that Israel has “the right to defend itself.”
But then she went on to say that the response cannot be “extrajudicial executions” or a reaction that is “disproportionate” so that the “numbers of dead on the other side” is several times greater.
Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman immediately responded, telling Expressen
that “To focus on the actions terrorism victims take in self-defense only serves to draw attention away from the horrors of terrorism. Instead, we should condemn and act to stop the perpetrators, the financiers and the inciters of terrorism.”
He added that Israel has a better record than any other Western country in minimizing civilian casualties while fighting terrorism.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a response calling her words “scandalous, delusional, rude and detached from reality. The foreign minister suggests that Israeli citizens simply give their necks to the murderers trying to stab them with knives,” the statement read. “The citizens of Israel and its security forces have the right to defend themselves. In Israel, every person who commits a crime is brought in front of a judge, including terrorists. The citizens of Israel have to deal with terrorism that receives support from irresponsible and false statements like that.”
According to Expressen
, Wallström’s press secretary, Eric Wirkensjö, issued a statement later saying that the foreign minister did not say that Israel carried out “extrajudicial executions,” but rather was speaking in general about the importance of proportionality and the “principle of distinction” in international law, and that what she stated applies to all parties.
This is the third time that the Swedish diplomat has angered Israel with comments about the current wave of terrorism.
Following the Paris attacks in November, she made comments to Swedish Television that the Foreign Ministry took as linking those attacks to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
And in October she posted a tweet that left diplomatic officials scratching their heads.
“Escalating violence in Jerusalem. Attacks against civilians unacceptable. Bring perpetrators to justice. Leaders must act responsibly,” wrote Wallstrom.
An Israeli diplomatic source blasted her for that tweet, saying it was “most regrettable” she was “unwilling to state in a clear and unequivocal way that the terrorists are Palestinian, and the victims are Israeli.”
In January she said that Israel “has irritated not only us, but the Americans and everyone who has anything to do with them right now” for its anger over Stockholm’s decision in 2014 to recognize a Palestinian state. Sweden’s decision, fulfilling a campaign pledge at the time, triggered a rash of moves in European parliaments to recognize a Palestinian state.
Sweden is currently competing against Italy and the Netherlands for the two 2017- 2018 spots on the UN Security Council reserved for the Western Europe and Others Group of countries.