Swedish mistake

Swedes tend to believe that others – including Muslim immigrants and their offspring living in Sweden – see the world like they do; Many do not.

October 5, 2014 22:17
3 minute read.

Sweden's Prime minister Stefan Lofven announces his new government during a Parliament session in Stockholm October 3. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Stefen Löfven, Sweden’s recently elected prime minister, did not waste time. During his inaugural address on Friday, he declared that his government will recognize “Palestine” as a full-fledged state.

Löfven’s motivation for deviating from EU-bloc policy are difficult to fathom. Of all the issues facing Sweden, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hardly the most urgent. Yet the brand new prime minister thought it pressing enough to merit his attention during his first major speech to his nation.

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One would expect Löfven to be preoccupied with domestic issues. After all, he has a budget to pass in November. Garnering support for his fiscal policy will be no small feat considering that his Social Democratic party won just 31.2 percent of the vote to overcome the center-right alliance last month. So far, only the Greens, with 6.8% of the vote, have joined Löfven’s government. In Sweden, minority governments can survive as long as there is no majority vote against them.

But instead of focusing his energies on wooing moderate parties to back Social Democratic policies – the reason he was voted into office – he has gone far afield.

Since Löfven opted to devote time to the Middle East, one would have thought that he would comment on the most serious crises of the region. But he made no mention of the carnage in Syria. He refrained from commenting on the US-led coalition against Islamic State.

Politically speaking, Löfven would only lose from taking a principled stand against Islamic State. Coming out in support of a Palestinian state is a much more popular move for a number of reasons.

Taking a pro-Palestinian stand fits well with Swedish society’s tendency to avoid public conflict and strive for unity. The vocally pro-Zionist movement in Sweden is minuscule. The pro-Palestinian camp, made up of leftists and the fast-growing Muslim community, is much larger.

Also, many Social Democratic constituents are pro-Palestinian.

Recognizing a Palestinian state resonates with Swedes who tend to see the Palestinians as an oppressed minority.

Swedes’ experiences with fundamentalist Muslims in their midst have not helped them appreciate the challenges Israel faces.

Swedes have a long tradition of tolerance and liberalism, and they tend to believe that others – including Muslim immigrants and their offspring living in Sweden – see the world like they do. Many do not.

Similarly, Israel has faced a Palestinian leadership that has repeatedly taken a violently extremist position against a Jewish state. Israelis have wanted to believe for decades that like most Israelis, most Palestinians seek peace and are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of coexistence. Many Palestinians do. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in Palestinian politics. Palestinian leaders have consistently rejected opportunities for peace.

Large proportions of Palestinians support Hamas and glorify suicide bombers and other terrorists as martyrs.

They refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist, dream of flooding the Jewish state with Palestinian refugees and their descendants and are unwilling to compromise on any of their demands, including their insistence on making all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem free of Jews.

By recognizing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 Armistice Lines, Sweden and other nations are taking sides in a complicated and protracted conflict. The EU, the US and most countries of the world support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. They maintain consuls-general in Ramallah.

The details of a peace agreement must, however, be agreed by the sides in an atmosphere of mutual recognition.

Both sides must undergo a process of reconciliation.

Forcing an agreement on them would simply set the stage for the next conflict.

Hungary, Poland and a few other European countries recognized a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 Armistice Lines. But they did so in 1988 when they part of the Soviet Bloc.

If Löfven goes ahead with his plan, Sweden would be the first major European country to follow in the footsteps of the Soviets. That would hardly be befitting Sweden’s liberal, tolerant ideals.

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