(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sweden became the first major Western country to recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday, triggering a sharp response from Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who recalled Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman to Jerusalem for consultations.
Stockholm needs to understand relations in the Middle East are more complicated than self-assembly furniture at IKEA, said Liberman.
The recognition is an “unfortunate decision that strengthens the extremists,” he said.
The only chance at reaching an agreement was through negotiations, and that these types of moves strengthen the unrealistic Palestinian demands and serve to push any agreement further away, Liberman said.
“It is a pity the Swedish government has chosen to adopt the measure that does a lot of damage and has no benefits,” he said. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström issued a statement saying Sweden hoped the move would “facilitate a peace agreement by making the parties less unequal, supporting the moderate Palestinian forces and contributing to hope at a time when tensions are increasing and no peace talks are taking place.”
“The purpose of Sweden’s recognition is to contribute to a future in which Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security.
We want to contribute to creating more hope and belief in the future among young Palestinians and Israelis who might otherwise run the risk of believing that there is no alternative to the current situation,” she said.
Officials in Jerusalem said that the Swedish move had to do more with domestic politics than with Israel and the Palestinians.
The move comes just three weeks after a Social Democrat-led minority government took power in Stockhom.
Two years ago, the officials said, the party promised that it would recognize “Palestine” if it took power, as a way of luring the country’s substantial Muslim population to the country’s Center and Left parties. Muslims make up an estimated 6.5 percent of the Swedish population.
Israeli officials said that it was absurd that the government, which has been in power for less than a month and had not yet warmed up its seats, was “trying to play in the international arena.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday phoned Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and thanked him for his country’s decision to recognize the “State of Palestine.”
Abbas expressed appreciation for Sweden’s “historic stance,” adding that it would serve the peace process.
Löfven told the PA president during the phone conversation that Sweden took the decision to help resume the negotiations over a two-state solution, Abbas’s office said.
Löfven invited Abbas to visit Sweden.
The two men agreed to set a date for the visit in the nearest future, the Abbas’s office said.