Norway's Socialists maintain boycott

Finance Minister Halvorsen publicly endorsed consumer boycott of Israel. (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Norway's Socialist Left Party said Monday it stood by a planned boycott of Israeli goods, even though the party's leader was forced to back down on the issue as a member of government. Party leader and Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen brought Norway to the brink of a diplomatic crisis with Israel last week by publicly endorsing a consumer boycott of the Jewish state to protest Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. However, both Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere were quick to announce that Halvorsen's view was not shared by the government or any of her partners in the governing coalition. The leftist leader also faced harsh criticism from opposition parties in Parliament. On Friday, Halvorsen apologized. "As a Cabinet member and finance minister I should not express a policy that is not in line with the official Norwegian foreign policy," she said. She also said her party's view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was well known and should not come as a surprise. On Monday, the Socialist Left said, as a party, it sticks by plans adopted in August to encourage people to boycott Israeli goods and support the Palestinians. Aasa Elvik, a Socialist Left member of Parliament, said the campaign, originally planned for later this month, could be delayed due to the uncertainty in Israeli politics as a result of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's illness. Last month, Norway's Soer-Trondelag county board also caused a stir by becoming the first Norwegian province to formally boycott Israel. That drew protests, including demonstrations outside Norwegian embassies in Tel Aviv, Washington and Ottawa. Norway has been a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most notably by secretly negotiating the now-tattered Oslo peace agreement in 1993. It also awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize to Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.