Don’t Expect a Thaw in Frosty Relations Between Sweden and Israel

Don’t Expect a Thaw in Frosty Relations Between Sweden and Israel
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom speaks after a meeting, Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 25, 2016 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Last month, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was denied an official visit to Israel, and Israeli officials refused to meet with her; a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said there were “scheduling problems." In an email interview, Per Jönsson, an associate editor at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, discusses Sweden’s ties with Israel.

WPR: What is behind the recent tensions between Sweden and Israel?

Per Jönsson: In October 2014, Sweden unilaterally recognized the state of Palestine, the first and only Western country to do so. In Israeli eyes, the move put Sweden in the category of anti-Zionist countries. Almost everything that has happened between Sweden and Israel since then has further hurt relations, not least of which when Wallstrom—correctly—described some of the Israeli shootings of Palestinian youth as “extrajudicial killings.” In January 2015 and last December, when she visited the Palestinian Authority, Wallstrom was not allowed to visit Israel in an official capacity. Israeli officials explicitly said that she was not welcome.

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