'Biased' and 'hostile' Swedish FM Margot Wallstrom resigns

Wallstrom had to cancel a visit to Israel after the government’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Israel also withdrew its ambassador to Stockholm.

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September 8, 2019 03:57
3 minute read.
MARGOT WALLSTROM

MARGOT WALLSTROM. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, whom Israeli officials have accused during her five years in office of implacable hostility and even antisemitism, announced on Friday that she is resigning to spend more time with her family.

“I don’t know the reason for the resignation,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Stockholm. “But I think she will do better playing with her grandchildren than [running] the foreign policy of Sweden. She was anti-Israel, and accused Israel of so many sins, including that we were almost behind the ISIS attack in France.”

In November 2015, after attacks in Paris killed 130 people, Wallström said that “to counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

This led to a furious reaction from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, with then-spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon saying, “The Swedish foreign minister is systematically biased, hostile, and one-sided against Israel when she points to the connection between the attacks in Paris and difficulties between Israel and the Palestinians. Anyone involved in a hopeless attempt to create a link between the attacks from radical Islam and the difficulties between Israel and the Palestinians is deceiving himself, his people and international public opinion.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called Wallström’s remarks “blatant and vile antisemitism.”

This was not the first time Wallström – and the Social Democratic government she represented – infuriated Israel.

The first act of the government when it took power in October 2014 was to recognize Palestine as a state, the first EU state to do so (Cyprus, Malta and six central and eastern European states did so before joining the EU).

As a result, then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman made it clear that neither he nor other top government officials would meet her when she planned to visit Israel in January 2015 to take part in a commemorative event for Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. She canceled her visit, and never did visit Jerusalem as Sweden’s top diplomat, though in 2016 she paid a visit to the PA provisional capital Ramallah.

Later that year she further antagonized Jerusalem by accusing it of carrying out extrajudicial executions and disproportionate force in responding to a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a response to this charge by calling her words “scandalous, delusional, rude and detached from reality.”

Mazel, who served in Stockholm from 2002-2004, said Israel’s hope is that Wallström’s resignation will lead to a foreign policy change toward Israel.

“It is about time,” he said, noting that Wallström was a disciple of assassinated prime minister Olof Palme, who was highly critical of the US and Israel, and championed Third World liberation movements.

“She was part of an aggressive anti-Israel policy that we really don’t understand,’he said. “Let’s hope there will now be the beginning of a different policy toward Israel – if new people come, we can hope for some kind of change of policy. The problem is this is part of [Sweden’s] Social Democratic policy toward Israel. But we Jews always hope that in the future it will be better.”

Wallström, in a statement announcing her resignation, said: “I have put everything I have into the job of making Sweden safe, respected internationally and appreciated as a partner. It is time for me to spend more time with my husband, my children and my grandchildren.”

She told Swedish radio she expected Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to announce her successor on Tuesday when he makes his policy declaration as parliament resumes after summer break.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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