Norway FM to Barak: Israel is a friend despite Elbit divestment
Israel opts for low-key response after Norway pulls out of Elbit deals, in order to avoid crisis with Oslo.
Investments Norway divested from the Israeli arms firm Elbit were part of a private fund and did not represent the country's policy, the country's minister of foreign affairs told Defense Minster Ehud Barak on Friday.
Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre told Barak, who had called to protested Norway's decision to withdraw funds from Elbit on account of its involvement with the West Bank separation fence, that the investment fund in question was private, one which the government had no control over.
The Norwegian minister also pointed out that Norway recently increased its investments in Israel and that it considered Israel its friend.
On Thursday, Norway's ambassador to Israel Jakken Bjorn Lian said that Norway's decision to pull all of its investments from the Israeli arms firm Elbit does not amount to a boycott of Jerusalem.
According to Lian, the same measures could have been taken against any other country, including neighboring Sweden.
The Foreign Ministry opted for a low-key response on Thursday after Norway announced its divestment, in order to avoid a crisis in relations with Oslo.
Though the ministry originally planned a harsh response, it ultimately issued a statement saying merely that "Israel will consider further protest measures in the future."
Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Gal held telephone consultations yesterday with Israel's ambassador to Oslo, Michael Eligal, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is currently in Ethiopia.
Later, Gal met with Lian to voice Israel's vehement objection to the decision to divest from the electronics firm.
The Foreign Ministry's decision not to adopt a more strident tone stemmed from the Norwegian ambassador's explanations of the divestment decision, as well as a decision by Lieberman to avoid opening a second diplomatic front in Europe in view of the ongoing crisis in ties with Sweden.
Lieberman has said that the Swedish government's refusal to condemn the content of an article in Aftonbladet, a Swedish tabloid, that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting the organs of Palestinians they shot and killed "is like Sweden's stance during World War II."
The latest crisis began when Norway's finance minister, Kristin Halvorsen, announced at a press conference in Oslo that the country had decided to divest from Elbit Systems due to its role in supplying technology for the separation fence.
The decision followed a recommendation issued by the Ethics Committee, whose role is to ensure that the government's investments abroad are in line with its ethical guidelines. The finance minister said Norway is not interested in funding a company so "blatantly involved in violating international humanitarian law."