WikiLeaks cables are not ‘eternal truth’

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store rejects US diplomat's characterization of Israel-Norway relations.

Norway FM Store 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Norway FM Store 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
From an Israeli perspective, one of the most interesting US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks is a February 2009 analysis of Norway’s role and aspirations in the Middle East.
In the cable, Kevin Johnson, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Oslo, wrote that Norway’s hope to be a leader in the peace process was hindered badly by a tense relationship with Israel, anti-Semitism in Norway and a sympathetic approach to Hamas.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store took strong issue with those characterizations during an interview with The Jerusalem Post this week.
Asked whether tension with Israel was keeping Norway from playing a more important role in the region, and whether the lack of Israeli trust in Norway was barring the door to more involvement, Store replied that the assessments of US diplomats presented in the WikiLeaks cables needed to be put in perspective.
“I would not take as eternal truth what is written by some kind of political observer from the US Embassy in Oslo, with all due respect,” Store said. “My impression is that we have a well tested relationship with Israel, and from my perspective there is trust.”
Pointing out that he met during his two day visit with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition head Tzipi Livni, Store said he wanted to communicate to the public that “Norway will stand by Israel.”
“We are friends of Israel,” he said, “and we are also friends of the Palestinians. If we can bring to the table contacts, networks and assets that can help nudge the situation in the right direction, then we are ready to do so. And I feel that I am being received by these people in an atmosphere of open dialogue and trust.”
One source of irritation in the relationship has been Norway’s insistence on maintaining contacts with Hamas, even though most other European countries – with the exception of Russia and Turkey – do not.
Johnson wrote in his cable that although the Norwegian government would deny it, “there are clear signs that contacts with Hamas go beyond a tactical desire for dialogue to a level of sympathy for Hamas positions.”
Store forcefully refuted that assessment. “That is one example of a completely blurred and erroneous analysis,” he said. “Norway has since the early 1970s maintained a policy that we will talk to and listen to the different groups that matter in the Mideast. There is no recognition in this. There is the idea of trying to understand what is driving, what is motivating, groups that have an influence on the developments, and also being ale to talk straight in return.”
Concerning Hamas, Store said, “Norwegian representatives in the field do talk to them. There are no political contacts. I don’t [talk to Hamas]. There has never been any financial or economic support whatsoever. We remain very critical about their charter and the way they conduct their business.
“I think that in the either-you-are- with-us-or-against-us climate that reigned in the US in this decade, they took this analysis many steps too far,” Store said. “I think our Israeli partners know how to read this.”