Norway FM Store 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
From an Israeli perspective, one of the most interesting US diplomatic cables
published by WikiLeaks is a February 2009 analysis of Norway’s role and
aspirations in the Middle East.
In the cable, Kevin Johnson, deputy chief
of mission at the US Embassy in Oslo, wrote that Norway’s hope to be a leader in
the peace process was hindered badly by a tense relationship with Israel,
anti-Semitism in Norway and a sympathetic approach to Hamas.
Minister Jonas Gahr Store took strong issue with those characterizations during
an interview with The Jerusalem Post
Asked whether tension
with Israel was keeping Norway from playing a more important role in the region,
and whether the lack of Israeli trust in Norway was barring the door to more
involvement, Store replied that the assessments of US diplomats presented in the
WikiLeaks cables needed to be put in perspective.
“I would not take as
eternal truth what is written by some kind of political observer from the US
Embassy in Oslo, with all due respect,” Store said. “My impression is that we
have a well tested relationship with Israel, and from my perspective there is
Pointing out that he met during his two day visit with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman and opposition head Tzipi Livni, Store said he wanted to
communicate to the public that “Norway will stand by Israel.”
friends of Israel,” he said, “and we are also friends of the Palestinians. If we
can bring to the table contacts, networks and assets that can help nudge the
situation in the right direction, then we are ready to do so. And I feel that I
am being received by these people in an atmosphere of open dialogue and
One source of irritation in the relationship has been Norway’s
insistence on maintaining contacts with Hamas, even though most other European
countries – with the exception of Russia and Turkey – do not.
wrote in his cable that although the Norwegian government 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.”
refuted that assessment. “That is one example of a completely blurred and
erroneous analysis,” he said. “Norway has since the early 1970s maintained a
policy that we will talk to and listen to the different groups that matter in
the Mideast. There is no recognition in this. There is the idea of trying to
understand what is driving, what is motivating, groups that have an influence on
the developments, and also being ale to talk straight in
Concerning Hamas, Store said, “Norwegian representatives in the
field do talk to them. There are no political contacts. I don’t [talk to Hamas].
There has never been any financial or economic support whatsoever. We remain
very critical about their charter and the way they conduct their
“I think that in the either-you-are- with-us-or-against-us
climate that reigned in the US in this decade, they took this analysis many
steps too far,” Store said. “I think our Israeli partners know how to read