Swedish officials unwelcome in Israel, says FM

Margot Wallstrom
Margot Wallstrom

JERUSALEM — Israel will not welcome visits by Swedish officials, the deputy foreign minister of Israel said a day after Sweden’s foreign minister called for an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinian attackers.

“Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden,” Tzipi Hotovely said at a meeting with members of the Foreign Ministry’s cadet course. The remarks were widely published in the Israeli media.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the Associated Press that “given the incendiary and aggressive nature” of Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s comments, “we have made it clear that she is not welcome in Israel.”

But an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told Haaretz that Netanyahu had not made a decision to halt official visits from Swedish officials.

Also, Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus, was summoned for a reprimand in response to the Wallstrom remarks about possible “extrajudicial killings” by Israel. The summons came from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Wallstrom also said it is “vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.”

Israeli officials have said security forces are justified in killing suspected attackers because trying to neutralize them without killing them would pose unnecessary risk. However, some human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups have said Israeli police and soldiers are too quick to kill alleged perpetrators and should instead make more efforts to subdue and arrest them.

Over 130 Palestinians have been killed during the recent wave of violence that began in October, most while perpetrating or attempting attacks, and others in violent clashes with security forces. Twenty-one Israelis and an American studying in Israel at a yeshiva have been killed in the attacks.

“The Swedish foreign minister’s statement backs terrorism,” Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Tuesday night in a post on Facebook. “Every declaration like this takes the whole region back a step from reaching a two-state solution and helps the murderous terrorists who do everything possible to stop us from getting there.

“It’s interesting that Sweden did not have a similar response when police in Paris killed the terrorists, as they had to do, and it will be interesting to see how Sweden will react when terrorists carry out attacks within its territory. Will it also want to pat them on the head because they had rough childhoods?”

In November, Wallstrom linked the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130, which were blamed on the Islamic State, to perceived hopelessness among the Palestinians.