Space Minister Ofir Akunis responded to the the claims, saying that an investigation should be conducted instead on “how a woman who so bluntly hates Israel was elected as foreign minister.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom gestures during an interview with Swedish TT News Agency at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Stockholm, Sweden, on March 11, 2015. (photo credit:CLAUDIO BRESCIANI / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
Minister Margot Wallstrom called on Tuesday for an investigation to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during the recent wave of violence there, local media reported.
The comments were the latest in a series of statements by Wallstrom that have irked Israeli authorities. Ties between Sweden and Israel nose-dived after Sweden announced its recognition of a Palestinian state shortly after Wallstrom’s center-left Social Democrats won general elections in 2014.
She deepened the rift last year by describing Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to Islamist radicalization.
“It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability,” Wallstrom said during a parliamentary debate, according to news agency TT .
Rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force to quell the unrest.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have all expressed concern, saying that while they recognize Israel’s right to self-defense, restraint is necessary to ensure the violence does not escalate further.
Almost daily stabbings, car-rammings and shootings by Palestinian attackers have killed 21 Israelis and a US citizen since early October, raising fears of a wider escalation a decade after the last Palestinian Intifada subsided.
Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 133 Palestinians in the same period, 83 of whom authorities described as assailants. Most of the others have been killed in clashes with security forces.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis responded to the the Swedish foreign minister’s claims against Israel, saying an investigation should be conducted instead on “how a woman who so bluntly hates Israel was elected, and still holds the role of foreign minister of Sweden.”
Also on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry of Israel released a statement addressing the Swedish FM’s claims, saying that the Wallstrom’s comments were “irresponsible and surreal, and gives support to terror and encourages violence.”
“How worried are you about the radicalization of young people in Sweden who are fighting for ISIS?” According to the translation provided by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Wallstrom answered: “Obviously, we have reason to be worried, not just in Sweden but across the world, because there are so many that are being radicalized. Here, once again, we are brought back to situations like the one in the Middle East, where not least, the Palestinians see that there isn’t a future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”
The Swedish Foreign Ministry issued a clarification in which it denied that Wallstrom had made a connection between the two.
“In the interview referred to, no implication or reference was made that implied that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had any relevance for the tragic events in Paris. We condemn all acts of terror. We must now unite as democracies to fight for our common values in these challenging times.”
But the Foreign Ministry on Monday said it felt Wallstrom’s comments did indeed make that link and summoned Sweden’s Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser to speak with ministry director-general Dore Gold.
The two men spoke for close to half an hour, Gold expressing Israel’s displeasure at Sweden’s general policy when it comes to Israel.
Sweden is one of the countries that is leading the call to place consumer labels on settlement products, Gold said, calling it a discriminatory measure that singles out Israel.
It doesn’t advance the peace process and it harms those Palestinians employed in Israeli factories over the Green Line, Gold said.
Now, he added, Wallstrom has made comments that could be interpreted as a justification for Palestinian terrorism.
“Those who engage in hopeless attempts to link the terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists with the difficulties between Israelis and Palestinians are misleading themselves as well as the public opinion of their country and the international community,” the Foreign Ministry said, calling Wallstrom’s words “brazen” and “shocking.”
“The Swedish Minister is systematically biased and one-sided against Israel,” the ministry said, adding that this latest statement was outrightly “hostile.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said Europe’s belief that Israel is the source of all the troubles in the world shows it has learned nothing over the years.
“Does Iran act out of frustration, did [Osama] Bin Laden act out of frustration?” she asked.
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, meanwhile, said the US rejects terrorism whether it is directed against France or Israel.
During a speech in Eilat, Shapiro condemned Friday’s terrorist attack in the South Hebron Hills in which Palestinian gunmen killed Yaakov Litman, 40, and his son, Netanel, 18, in an attack on the family’s van.
“As Israel mourns the murder of so many of its citizens – most recently, Rabbi Yaakov Litman z”l and his son Netanel Litman z”l, who were gunned down just before Shabbat – and prays for the recovery of dozens more – a list that includes American citizens – America’s leaders and countless other Americans stand in steadfast solidarity with you,” Shapiro said.
“A similar solidarity to that which we feel for France during these dark days,” he continued.
“With Israel, just as with France, America’s condemnation, our total rejection of terror – whether in the form of rocks, knives, motor vehicles, guns, suicide bombers, or rockets – is unequivocal and rooted in the kinship of our open and democratic societies,” Shapiro said.
During the last few days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has drawn a link between the two attacks, which occurred within hours of each other on Friday.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu said the terrorists who kill Israelis and those who target Parisians have the same goals.
“Those who kill Israelis have the exact same murderous intentions as those who killed in Paris and the methods we use – blowing up terrorists’ homes, determined action by our forces, including entering different places and increasing the amount of forces – allow us to prevent much of their actions,” he said.
“We have been fighting terrorism for almost 100 years and are battling it successfully,” Netanyahu said, pointing to the “powerful” policy of demolishing terrorists’ homes and saying the father of the terrorist who killed two Israelis on Friday may have turned in his son in order to avoid having the home demolished. He also noted other methods of combating terrorism, such as increasing forces and entering terrorist strongholds and neighborhoods.
Netanyahu concluded, “There is no way to fight terrorism but to fight terrorism” and nothing can replace that fight.