Norway’s FM to navigate maze of new Israeli gov't

Visiting statesman will meet with five ministers in absence of foreign minister.

Norwegian flag 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Norwegian flag 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lacking a full-time foreign minister, but with a number of other cabinet ministers and senior officials filling in for the job, Israel’s new government is creating headaches for protocol officers planning foreign ministerial visits to Jerusalem.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide will be the first statesman, outside of US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry, to visit Israel since the new government was formed last month.
Instead of meeting one foreign minister, Eide will be meeting five people who are doing some aspect of the foreign minister’s traditional job.
Eide, who is to arrive Wednesday for a one-day visit, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz; Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, because of her role as the person who will head the negotiating team with the Palestinians if negotiations get restarted; Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, because of what one official said was his “important role in the government,” and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
Eide, a former Norwegian defense minister who entered his post in September and will be making his first visit here as foreign minister, will be accompanied by the director of Norway’s Holocaust Center, and will be going to Yad Vashem.
Diplomatic officials said that among the topics to be discussed during Eide’s visit – in addition to the Palestinian issue and bilateral issues – is the recent gas that has started to flow from the offshore Tamar field into Israel.
Norway has companies involved in that project, and Netanyahu has also expressed interest in the past in learning about Norway’s massive Oil Fund that invests surplus revenue generated by Norway’s oil industry.
Eide will arrive in Israel directly from talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and will also go to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.