Netanyahu, Norwegian FM at odds over Palestinian NGO

Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to see 'hostile' NGOs de-funded by European states.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide to get Oslo to stop funding BDS-supporting NGOs on Sunday, and the two disagreed over whether one of them – Al-Haq, heavily supported by Norway – denies Israel’s right to exist.
Netanyahu, who in the coming days will be meeting the foreign ministers of Ireland and the Netherlands – two other European countries who heavily support NGOs operating here – is actively campaigning to get governments to stop supporting NGOs involved in boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) or “lawfare” activity against Israel.
In late December Denmark announced that it will tighten the conditions for providing money to Palestinian NGOs; this is something that Jerusalem wants to see other European governments do as well.
According to the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, Al-Haq, located in Ramallah, is a leader in anti-Israel “lawfare” and BDS campaigns; Norway gave the organization nearly $1.4 million in 2015-2016.
Søreide’s visit comes less than three months after her appointment as foreign minister. She is Norway’s first female foreign minister, having succeeded Borge Brende who was named President of the World Economic Forum. She served previously as defense minister from 2013 to 2017. On Monday she is scheduled to travel to Ramallah.
Deputy Minister Michael Oren, who joined Netanyahu’s meeting with Søreide, said he told her that the Palestinians missed a golden opportunity last month – following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – to move the diplomatic process forward.
“The Palestinians have missed a historic opportunity. They could have had their three days of rage, and then come back and said to the US, ‘OK you did something for Israel, now do something for us.’”
Oren noted that Trump made it clear that he was open to this in a tweet he posted last week.
But instead of availing themselves of that opportunity, Oren said, the Palestinians pulled back from talks and said Washington is no longer an honest broker, something that “will get them nowhere.”
Netanyahu told Søreide during the meeting that while Israel and Europe can have disagreement over policies, there is only one country in this region that shares Europe’s values, and is a “real state” – with a real economy, a real democracy, and a real army.
“If that state disappears,” he said, “then Europe’s security would be gravely endangered because this region would fall apart.” Netanyahu said that any attempt by Europe to harm or weaken Israel’s security would be a boomerang that would, first and foremost, harm Europe itself.
Søreide also met with President Reuven Rivlin, who stressed that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and termed UNESCO’s negation of Israel’s deep-rooted ties to Jerusalem as “nonsense” and “a waste of time.”
He said that UNESCO, through its declaration, is trying to rewrite history, and that anyone who reads the Bible knows that King David proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Jews prayed for 2000 years to return to Jerusalem,” he said.
Rivlin also implied that by negating the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, UNESCO was also negating the Christian connection. “Every Christian who comes to Jerusalem, feels a connection when walking through the Via Dolorosa,” he said. “UNESCO raising a finger to change history is not helpful.”
Rivlin also had some scathing comments about BDS, through which he said “hatred is not being reduced but increased.”
Søreide was interested in hear from the Israeli and Palestinian leadership about their projections for future possibilities of revitalizing the peace process, and what they think is needed in order to resume negotiations.
“How can we help?” she asked Rivlin.
As he has stated many times before, the president replied that confidence building measures were essential before anything else, and that there must be realization on both sides that the other is here to stay.
He made the point that Israelis and Palestinians are not only neighbors sharing the same small area of land, but are also cousins. “We are both descended from Abraham,” he declared.
He attributed the hostility that exists between both sides to political factors, specifically heightened nationalism “which brought disaster.”