Oslo. Illustration by Amos Biderman
In Oslo they don't like the fact that the name of the Norwegian capital has become a synonym for diplomatic failure, if not a recipe for terror. Illustration by Amos Biderman
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It's an understatement to say that in Oslo they don't like the fact that the name of the Norwegian capital has become a synonym for diplomatic failure, if not a recipe for terror. Foreign Ministry officials in Oslo say that their government is not responsibe for the dead end in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.They suggest that it be sought first and foremost in the settlements and Israeli policy, and to some extent in the Palestinian Authority's delayed reaction when it comes to the battle against violence. Next in line are the Americans and the Europeans, who last year prevented the PA from joining the United Nations. Norway trails at the end of the list, as the sucker: The sponsor that had nothing to say.

The Scandinavian gas and salmon powerhouse was honored with the leadership of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for assistance to the Palestinians. It is in third place on the list of those who finance the PA ($120 million annually ), which was meant to serve as a temporary arrangement and has become a bad habit. As far as having something to say - Oslo supports establishing Palestine now and is working to soften the viewpoints of Hamas leaders on the way to the swearing-in of a national unity government that will reunite the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store will use the upcoming meeting of the forum leaders, to take place next month in New York, to win over adherents to the upgrading of the PA. Next week he will arrive for preparatory meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah. He will use the visit to remind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Oslo Accords don't turn 60.2 percent of the West Bank (Area C ) into part of the settlers' land.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's travel schedule will spare the visitor from Oslo a reprimand for "Norway's pro-Palestinian policy." In the coming years Lieberman will send his messages to Oslo via the new ambassador, Prof. Naim Araidi, a member of the Druze community. In the absence of the ambassador his deputy, George Deek, a member of the Christian Arab minority, will have the honor of delivering the minister's message. For example, the recommendation to get rid of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Here Lieberman of all people, the leader of the transfer party ("population exchange" ) will also go down in Israel's history as the first foreign minister to appoint a Druze as ambassador, as well as the first foreign minister who entrusted the two senior diplomatic positions in one embassy to non-Jews.

Let's see what Norwegian will dare to say that Lieberman is a racist? He's even willing to send two goyim to their lovely country: those who are willing to represent him and the Jewish state.

On the website HONA, which focuses on the Druze community, it was reported that at a "huge dinner" recently held in Maghar, the village of the ambassador designate, Lieberman said that it was "no coincidence" that he entrusted the embassy in Oslo to Prof. Araidi. "He has been sent to a country that is not easy, one of the major challenges in the area of the State of Israel's foreign relations." It also said there that Araidi promised that the Druze community would pay Lieberman back for the appointment. On Yisrael Beiteinu's website it was reported that the community leaders gave Lieberman a certificate of appreciation for appointing Araidi.

Araidi is still awaiting the official consent of the Norwegian government to his appointment. His deputy, Deek, an employee of the Foreign Ministry, arrived here last month at the conclusion of his tenure in the Israeli embassy in Nigeria. When the impressive young man from Jaffa explains how he is representing Israel, his face does not disclose the least embarrassment. This is his country, just at it is mine, and he has no problem with expressing the positions of its elected government and celebrating its Independence Day. And yes, he will be pleased to be a guest at the Passover seder organized by Oslo's Jewish community.

The head of the small community (some 700 people ), Ervin Kohn, has no complaint about the appointment of a Druze and a Christian as Israel's senior representatives in Norway. On the contrary, says the liberal chair manufacturer ("Arafat called me 'Mister Chairman'" ), "I'm sure that this will strengthen Israel's status here."

When the Norwegian Foreign Ministry condemns Israel, Araidi and Deek will not always find consolation in the synagogue. "I love Israel dearly," says Kohn, immediately adding "but when I'm here, in Oslo, I'm a Norwegian Jew, in Israel I'm a Jewish Norwegian. When Israel doesn't behave properly we don't hesitate to condemn it. I don't say Amen after every action of Israel."

The interesting question as to what will happen when a Druze and a Christian quarrel with a Jew in Norway is not the beginning of any joke.

Norwegian social justice

The interview with Deputy Labor Minister Gina Lund took place shortly after the publication of the latest report about the rise in unemployment in Israel. The table of statistics prepared for me by her assistants indicates that many Israeli salaried workers live on an income lower than that of an unemployed (only 3.3 percent of the work force ), elderly or retired Norwegian (there is no mandatory retirement age ). Lund was clearly prepared for remarks such as "That's no big deal, with a GDP per person of $54,000 a year and ... "

With unconcealed pride she notes that Norway discovered social justice many years before discovering the gas deposits that turned it into one of the world's wealthiest countries. "Norway became a welfare state already in the 1950s, after the war, with national insurance for all, an eight-hour work day and a right to a pension unrelated to previous employment," says Lund. "The concept of welfare need not be dependent on the country's wealth - here, in Norway, that's a profound ethical and moral belief."

And here, in Israel?