(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A Wednesday meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and a pro-Israel conservative delegation that included a senior member of US President- elect Donald Trump’s transition team was scuttled because one of the group’s members is from a far-right political party in Sweden with a neo-Nazi past.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that when the Foreign Ministry learned that Kristina Winberg, a member of the European Parliament from the Sweden Democrats Party – a far-right anti-immigrant party – was in the delegation, it advised Hotovely not to meet her.
“The message was passed on to the group that Hotovely was interested in meeting them, but not with that particular member,” Nachshon said.
The group, which included parliamentarians and business people from the US, Europe and India, then refused to meet Hotovely without Winberg.
“It was their decision, not ours,” Nachshon said.
The group is in Israel taking part in the Jerusalem Leaders Summit. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the conference on Monday, also canceled at the last minute.
Becky Norton Dunlop, a fellow at Washington’s Heritage Foundation think tank and a senior member of the Trump transition team, said that the entire delegation came to Israel to take part in the seminar because “they are pro-Israel and want to show support for Israel.”
While the Sweden Democrats “may have a history,” she said, “that history is some time ago. It is not the situation with the current leadership of the party.”
The party’s current leader Jimmie Akesson has purged it – now the third largest party of Sweden – of some of its more radical elements.
“Kristina is pro-Israel, so we as a delegation said that we want to meet as a delegation, and if they don’t want to meet, fine, we will meet with other people,” Dunlop said of Wednesday’s non-meeting with Hotovely.
“The thing I feel most concerned about is that the people who put together the Jerusalem Leaders Summit are looking to build support for Israel because of its representative democracy, its support for the rule of law and its uniqueness in the Middle East,” she said.
“Here we are trying to build support for Israel; we think that is important, and that Israel needs to be looking for allies. I am not sure what the Foreign Ministry’s bureaucracy goes through to check these things out, but Kristina is a strong pro-Israel ally in the EU and in Sweden.”
Instead of meeting as a group with Hotovely, the delegation met in the Knesset with three MKs: Likud lawmakers Amir Ohana and Yehudah Glick, and Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union.
Hotovely eventually met separately with Dunlop and a few members of the group when they were eating in the Knesset.
The group also included US Congressman David Brat, a Republican from Virginia, and another Virginia Republican, Congressman-elect Scott Taylor, as well as parliamentarians from Britain and Belgium.
Winberg was not the only Swedish politician snubbed by Israeli officials lately.
Government officials refused to meet left-wing Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom during her visit here last week, because of what is seen in Jerusalem as her strong anti-Israel bias.
Starting on January 1, and for the next two years, Sweden will be one of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council. It will hold the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of January.