Israel to Sweden on Palestinian state: Thanks for IKEA furniture, but it’s missing screws

"Intelligent people have humor," Margot Wallström says of her back and forth with Liberman.

Flag of Sweden (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flag of Sweden
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s impossible to put together IKEA furniture if some of the screws are missing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Friday, issuing his metaphoric response to attack Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state last week.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman first referred to Sweden’s iconic self-assembly furniture on Thursday to illustrate what he believes is Sweden’s failure to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that it was more complicated than IKEA’s self-assembly furniture.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom responded in kind.
“I would be happy to send him a package of IKEA furniture [to assemble],” Wallstrom told CNN late Thursday night.
She said that IKEA furniture worked well as a metaphor for the frozen peace process, and that Liberman could learn some things from assembling IKEA furniture.
“He would see that what you need to put that together, is first of all a partner,” Wallstrom said. “You need to cooperate and you need a good manual. I think we have most of those elements, if we want to use them.”
“For the conflict in the Middle East, and for peace, you need two parties to actually sit down at the same table and discuss the future,” Wallstrom said.
Nahshon responded on Friday morning by saying that “It’s nice to send a piece of furniture from IKEA, but when the instructions are in an unintelligible language and a few furniture screws are missing – it does not help.”
In an interview on Army Radio, Nahshon explained that Israel had recalled its ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, for consultations for an unspecified period of time.
“This is a very serious step that clearly expresses our feelings about Sweden’s decision,” Nahshon said.
Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday ran counter to its past policies with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nahshon said.
Sweden is considered a friendly ally with strong economic ties to Israel, said Nahshon.
“So this decision, which was taken without any consultations with Israel, was a surprise,” Nahshon said.
Wallstrom told CNN that her country expected Israel to criticize its decision.
“We expected them also to use the diplomatic tools that they have available to them,” she said, adding that she believed Sweden’s move would not impact her country’s relationship with Israel.
“I am confident that this will not destroy the excellent cooperation and relations that we have between our two countries. We will from outside continue to invest in that,” she told CNN.
Sweden believes that the time is right to recognize “Palestine” as a state because it has fulfilled the legal obligations necessary to achieve that status, Wallstrom said.
“Also, it is timely because we have had a very serious situation on the ground. We have seen new settlements.
We have seen more violence and also a tendency to radicalization of young people, especially,” she said.
“We hope that we can make the parties a little less unequal, that we might inject some new dynamics into the suspended peace talks and also give hope to young people that there is an alternative to more violence and war,” Wallstrom said.
She noted that a majority of nations around the world had already taken that same step.
According to the PLO, 138 nations already recognize “Palestine” as a state, including three EU members – Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – that did so before joining the EU.
Sweden is the first EU member state to recognize “Palestine” as a state.
Last month, France told the UN Security Council that sooner or later it would have to do so as well.
Nahshon told Army Radio he did not believe other European powers would follow suit at this time.
Such recognition, he said, prevents the resumption of peace talks because it does not give the Palestinians any incentive to return to the negotiating table.