Swedish minister ‘not welcome in Israel’ after comments

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom will not be welcome in Israel following her call for investigations into the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces and other critical comments, a top Israeli official said Wednesday.

Israel’s fiery deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, harshly criticised Wallstrom, calling her comments “a mix of blindness and political stupidity”.

“Israel has decided to close its doors to official Swedish visits,” she said in comments broadcast on Israeli public radio.

A foreign ministry spokesman later walked back her comments, saying they referred only to Wallstrom and not other Swedish officials. An adviser to Hotovely told AFP that diplomatic relations with Sweden would continue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.

As the controversy erupted, a Swedish delegation including one of the country’s deputy parliament speakers, Esabelle Dingizian, was visiting Israel.

Wallstrom made the comments on Tuesday while responding to a question in parliament on a controversy raised in December by her statement on the need for Israel to avoid “extrajudicial executions”.

In Israeli use of force against Palestinian protests, 150 Palestinians have been killed since October. On the Israeli side, 23 Israeli have been killed.

Israel firmly rejects accusations that it has used excessive force.

Ties between Israel and Sweden plummeted after Stockholm recognised the Palestinian state shortly after Wallstrom’s centre-left Social Democrats won a parliamentary election in 2014.

A day after the Paris attacks in November claimed by ISIS group, Wallstrom again attracted Israeli condemnation when she said the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a factor in radicalisation.

An adviser to Hotovely told AFP on Wednesday that Wallstrom would have no reason to visit Israel in any case because “with that sort of position we really don’t have anything to talk about.”

“What (Hotovely) was really saying is that it can’t be that a foreign minister that wants to be an interlocutor… would take such an absurd and unacceptable position,” said Uri Resnick, adding that Wallstrom was “blaming the victim”.

source: AFP