Israel needs to reshape its relations with Sweden

Israel’s new government must take a firm stand in its relations with Sweden following Sweden’s acknowledgment of Palestine – otherwise it risks losing Europe

May 18, 2015 21:43
3 minute read.
Swedish PM Stefan Lofven

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven gives a news conference in Stockholm. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Good news first: Ed Miliband and his Labour Party overwhelmingly lost the elections in Great Britain. Had he won, Israel was at risk of being further alienated and isolated, not because its own policies are at fault but because of the increasingly anti-Israel left-wing paradigm in European socialist circles.

Sweden’s acknowledgment of “Palestine” is the result of several years’ propaganda and campaigns aimed at weakening Israeli democracy. One must bear in mind that Western Europe has for decades been funding organizations that delegitimize the Jewish state and its values. What would the reaction have been in Great Britain, Germany, Spain, France, etc., if these countries had been subjected to such constant attack from foreign entities that questioned and delegitimized their very existence? The Swedish government funds numerous Israeli and Palestinian NGOs through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the embassy in Tel Aviv, the representative office in Ramallah, and indirectly by outsourcing to Swedish aid organizations such as Diakonia and Kvinna till Kvinna.

Many NGOs receiving Swedish government funding oppose a two-state formula, disapprove of peace efforts, promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts and lawfare cases against Israeli officials, and engage in anti-Semitic activities. Diakonia, which received SEK 390 million from Sweden in 2013, regularly exploits legal rhetoric to demonize Israel, accusing Israel of “war crimes,” “collective punishment” and “violations of international law.”

The Church of Sweden, which received SEK 192m. from Sweden and the EU in 2013, endorses and promotes the Kairos Palestine document. This document calls for BDS against Israel and denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, and also ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed by Palestinians against Christians.

European and other governments use direct funding for Israeli NGOs to promote their own views and interests, regardless of and often in opposition to the policies of the democratically elected representatives of the Israeli public. The NGOs that receive such funding promote opposition policies on highly complex and sensitive issues such as Jerusalem, the future of the West Bank, responses to terrorism in Gaza, and other core issues which are central to the lives of Israeli citizens.

Israel has been on the defensive when it comes to Sweden’s recognition of Palestine.

It recalled its ambassador, but he was back reasonably quickly.

By not adopting harder sanctions, Israel is encouraging other EU member states to follow Sweden’s lead by adapting more anti-Israeli measures.

I strongly doubt that the Foreign Ministry fully understood the implications of the Swedish acknowledgment of Palestine, the snowball effect it may yet have.

Why should a Swedish consulate exist in east Jerusalem? If Sweden cannot move its embassy to Jerusalem, why can it recognize east Jerusalem as Palestinian territory? Israel “leases” land to the Swedes out of courtesy – it is under no moral obligation to do so. Netanyahu’s current government should close the consulate in east Jerusalem and move it, without delay, to Ramallah. And if the Swedes claim that the Palestinians can not guarantee their safety, well, tough luck. They should definitely have considered that before recognizing a non-functional and non-existent state.

Sweden is per capita among UNRWA’s largest donors. Now that a Palestinian state exists in Sweden’s eyes, Swedish aid should be withdrawn from UNRWA.

Israel needs to regain initiative when it comes to its relations vis a vis Sweden and Scandinavia. By closing the Swedish consulate in east Jerusalem and strictly limiting Swedish funding of anti-Israeli organizations, Israel would be taking appropriate action, and also sending a message of willpower and strength.

The author is a Swedish writer on Israeli-Swedish relations.

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