TEL AVIV – Israel announced on Wednesday that Sweden will be barred from any role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Foreign Ministry made the announcement as a result of Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s (pictured) hostility to Israel, which included accusing the Jewish state of extrajudicial killings.
The statement came as the ministry announced that its Deputy Director-General for Western Europe, Aviv Shir-On, summoned Swedish ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser to condemn Wallstrom’s comments.
The decision to summon Nesser was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also directed Shir-On to convey the government’s anger at what it views as Sweden’s antagonistic attitude toward Israel.
On Tuesday, Wallstrom called for an investigation to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during the current wave of terrorism. “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability,” she said during a parliamentary debate, according to the Swedish news agency TT.
The Foreign Ministry said Wallstrom’s comments indicate “she does not understand what is happening in our region and is apparently not aware of the difficult situation facing Israeli citizens, and the continuous danger of murderous terrorism.”
Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said that anyone attacking Israel over its right to defend itself from terrorism is “in practical terms encouraging terrorism.”
Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments came in the wake of remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials.
“Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tailwind to Islamic State to act throughout Europe,” Hotovely said.
She added that Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Knesset House Committee Chairman David Bitan (Likud) called for the cancellation of the Israel-Sweden Parliamentary Friendship Group. The letter was also sent to the chairman of the group, MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union).
According to Bitan, Wallstrom “positions the terrorists as victims, thus encouraging hatred of Israel in the world and backing terrorism.”
Ben-Reuven responded that the friendship group will continue defending Israel and explaining what is wrong with Wallstrom’s comments.
“The Swedish foreign minister’s behavior and statements are very serious. Israel has a moral army and a strong judiciary. Therefore, Sweden and no other country can involve itself in our internal processes,” Ben-Reuven stated.
He said that because her comments were so harsh, there was a need “to explain ourselves to the Swedish parliamentarians and public, by showing Israel’s stances and why they are just. We cannot run away from the arena; we must struggle and win.”
For its part, the Palestinian Authority praised Sweden and welcomed the call for an investigation into Israeli “extrajudicial killings,” and further called on all countries to endorse “this courageous and humane” position, saying it is aimed at preserving the peace process.
The PA Foreign Ministry urged all countries to put aside “political fears” and ignore Israel’s “systematic state terrorism.” It also accused Israel of preventing the implementation of international law and pursuing its “brutal extrajudicial executions” of Palestinians.
The PA ministry condemned Israel’s “ferocious campaign and political terrorism” against the Swedish foreign minister. It said the campaign was designed to cover up Israeli “crimes” against the Palestinians.
The ministry also renewed its call for an inquiry into “war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, denounced Israeli opposition figures, such as opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who also came out against Wallstrom’s statements, saying they were “feeding fascist and radical trends” in Israel.