Svein Sevje - Nir Keidar - July 2011
Norwegian Ambassador to Israel Svein Sevje. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Norway's ambassador to Israel told Haaretz Wednesday that in lieu of a negotiated peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, it is legitimate for the Palestinians to appeal to the United Nations, but that his country supports Israel, and has always supported it.

The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were struck in Norway between 1993 and 1995, and are the legal framework for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in matters including security, economy and infrastructure.

"The history of Norway vis-a-vis Israel is one of great support -- all the time: from the inception, through all these years, a lot of support," Norwegian Ambassador Svein Sevje told Haaretz on Wednesday, hours before boarding a flight back to Oslo.

Norway is currently reeling from the shock of twin terror attacks carried out last Friday, in which a government building was bombed and 76 people are known to have been killed. The self-confessed killer is said to have published a manifesto decrying Muslim immigration to Norway and advocating for their expulsion from the country.

The manifesto of the alleged killer also contains references to Israel, saying that it is on the front lines of a clash of civilizations between Judeo-Christianity and Islam.

Most Norwegian people believe that Israel's 44-year military occupation of the West Bank and the Jewish-only settlements built on that land are violations of international law and an impediment to peace, says Sevje. He hopes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved diplomatically, in the spirit of the Oslo accords.

"That's why a few weeks back, our foreign minister said we would like to see negotiations. But if the Palestinians go to the UN, we consider that legitimate. It can't be unilateralism to go to the most multilateral of all organizations," he says, disagreeing with the government's contention that such a move would sabotage the possibilities for peace in the region.

If the Norwegian government does not believe a Palestinian push for international recognition of its sovereignty to be illegitimate, or likely to lead to increased conflict, it may be partly because of Norway's historic decision to dissolve its own national union with Sweden, just over a century ago, in 1905. "It happened without violence -- it was a unilateral declaration of independence, and the Swedes accepted it," says Sevje.

 

Read the full interview with Norwegian Ambassador Svein Sevje on Haaretz.com on Friday