Diplomacy & defense
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on Tuesday called for a probe to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during recent violence, local media reported.
In response, Israel's Foreign Ministry said that Wallström was "giving support to terror and thus encouraging violence," calling her statements "irresponsible and delusional."
Relations between Israel and Sweden hit a low point in January last year when Wallström said that Israel had angered close allies with its harsh response to her country’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state in October the previous year.
Since then, Wallström has made a number of controversial statements relating to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In December, she criticized Israel before the Swedish parliament for what she claimed were extrajudicial executions of Palestinian attackers.
When asked by a Swedish parliamentarian why she refused to condemn Palestinian acts of violence against Israelis, she replied that while she did not condone terrorism and that Israel did have a right to self-defense, “at the same time the [Israeli] response doesn’t need to be extrajudicial executions or disproportionate force.”
Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement in response to Wallström's comments. "The statement is scandalous, surreal, impudent, and detached from reality. The Swedish Foreign Minister is suggesting that Israeli citizens offer up their necks to murders, who would stab them with their knives."
In an interview in November with Swedish television network SVT2T, hours after the Paris attacks on November 13, Wallström said that “to counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” suggesting that the attacks were rooted in the frustration of Muslims in the Middle East.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem were left angered in October by a tweet from Wallström about the wave of terror in Israel.
“Escalating violence in Jerusalem. Attacks against civilians unacceptable. Bring perpetrators to justice. Leaders must act responsibly,” Wallström wrote.
Israeli diplomats were unhappy that Wallström failed to mention that the victims were Israeli. A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said: “It is most regrettable that the Swedish foreign minister is unwilling to state in a clear and unequivocal way that the terrorists are Palestinian, and that the victims are Israeli. We wish that her messages would be much clearer and correspond to the reality of the situation.”
Diplomatic relations dipped further in December when Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven claimed that Palestinian stabbing attacks in Israel were not considered terrorism.
"No, it is not classified as that. There is an international classification when it is, or is not. What I know is not classified as terrorism," he told Swedish news agency TT.
The Swedish prime minister called the news agency after the interview and tried to his own comments. "I was referring to the fact it is not clear whether these knife attacks have been organized by some classified terrorist organization. But organized attacks are precisely acts of terrorism," he said.
Twenty-three Israelis and an American have been killed in Palestinian attacks including stabbings, car rammings and gunfire since October 1. An Eritrean was also killed.
At the same time, 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club rights group says more than 3,000 Palestinians have been arrested since the start of the violence, with most of them minors. It says a total of more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held by Israel.