The deliberations to form a new Finnish government after the April 17th election have finally come to an end. The bizarre new government is comprised of the center right party the National Coalition Party, three left wing parties, the Left Alliance and Social Democrats and the Green Party. In addition to this, the conservative Christian Democrats and the Swedish People''s Party joined the colorful bunch.
The new prime minister, Jyrki Katainen was under tremendous pressure after failing to form a government with his more natural political allies, namely True Finns and The Center Party. The biggest winner in the elections, True Finns decided that it was not able to enter the new government due to its unwillingness to compromise on matters regarding bailouts of EU members. The chairman of True Finns, Timo Soini declared that he would not be able to back down on his positions regarding the bailouts.
Soini’s principled views are now heard in the opposition. Soini enjoys the support of his constituents although some feel betrayed by his decision to stay out of the government.
Soini’s pronouncement to stay out meant that earlier speculation about issues such as immigration and foreign policy became redundant.
If it once seemed like a new beginning in the relationship between Finland and Israel, it now looks like a complete reversal of earlier optimism. Israelis and others who were expecting a stronger friendship between the two countries can now prepare themselves for a more hostile Finnish foreign policy.
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (Reuters)
The new foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja is a familiar face for most politicians in Israel. Tuomioja was the foreign minister of Finland from 2000 to 2007. Tuomioja enjoys very little credibility in Israel, all due to his past comments and unabashed hostility towards the country.
In a famous interview in 2001, Tuomioja compared Israeli defensive actions to the Nazi persecution of European Jewry. This led many in Israel to demand that that the then Israeli ambassador to Finland be recalled.
In 2006, during the war between Hezbollah and Israel, Tuomioja put into question the notion that Israel’s bombing of UN observation post which killed four UN observers, including one Finn, was accidental.
In 2009 Tuomioja once again doubted Israel’s sincerity regarding a bombing in Gaza which led to the destruction of the clinic operated by Finnish church aid organization, Kirkon Ulkomaanapu. In the aftermath of the 2010 Israel raid on the Turkish flotilla, Tuomioja stated that “trade and other ties with Israel should be linked to Israel''s regard for international law and commitment to the peace process.”
Tuomioja’s past comments signal a drastic change in policy towards Israel. Sweden and Norway have traditionally shown deep antipathy towards Israel. In Finnish politics, the Christian Democrats have always cultivated warm relations with Israel, but as far as the new government goes, they are a drop in the ocean. Finland will now join its neighbors Sweden and Norway as the most fervent critics of Israel.firstname.lastname@example.org