Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende will come to Israel Wednesday for a one-day visit despite efforts by the Foreign Ministry workers’ committee to get him to cancel his trip in solidarity with their labor sanctions.
Brende is stopping in Israel for meetings as part of a regional tour that will also take him to the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan.
On Thursday Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper quoted Yaakov Livne, the co-head of the workers’ committee, as saying that strong forces in Israel were attempting to subvert the work sanctions, “and we expect the Norwegian foreign minister not to cooperate with these forces.”
An official at the Norwegian Embassy said the visit will go on as planned, and that Norway is not a part of the work dispute.
The Foreign Ministry workers re-launched crippling sanctions last week after seven- month mediation efforts to end their labor dispute did not deliver a deal. The workers, who in recent days have threatened a full-blown strike, are demanding improvement in wages and conditions, such as compensation to spouses of diplomats who give up careers and lose pension benefits when following their husbands or wives abroad.
Just from Wednesday to Friday alone, the work sanctions have – among other cancellations and postponements – led to the canceling of a visit by Swaziland’s King Mswati III; postponement of a meeting with the Jordanians about enlarging the border crossing in the Arava; the cancellation of a meeting of Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian health officials in Jerusalem; and the cancellation of a visit by a Vatican advance team to plan the scheduled visit of Pope Francis in May.
Brende was last in Israel in November. An official at the Norwegian Embassy said since Norway is the head of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which is the international group of donors that provides funds to the Palestinian Authority, the Norwegian foreign minister generally comes here once every six months, prior to the committee’s biannual meetings.
The current Norwegian government – led by Erna Solberg, who was elected in September – has been described by some Israeli officials as the friendliest Norwegian government toward Israel since the 1970s.