Sweden Stands Firm on Palestine, but Recognition 'Not Imminent'

Stockholm is not backtracking on its intentions to recognize a Palestinian state, Swedish leaders tell Herzog.

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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven gives a news conference at the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, October 3, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Sweden is not backtracking on its intentions to recognize a Palestinian state, Israeli Labor Party chairman and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog said Sunday after speaking by telephone with Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, and Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström.

Herzog said they told him Stockholm will recognize a Palestinian state because that is part of the platform of the new government, as presented to Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf. Löfven and Wallström noted that no date has been set for the move and said Sweden sought a dialogue on the issue with Israel.

Sweden’s ambassador to Israel is scheduled to report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem at noon Monday for a reprimand by the head of the European desk.

Herzog and Löfven met several years ago, when Löfven visited Israel and Herzog invited him for lunch as a leader of a “sister party” to the Labor Party; they have kept in touch. Herzog, who initiated Sunday’s conversation with Löfven, told Haaretz that the Swedish prime minister had reminded him that many states, including members of the European Union, recognized a Palestinian state years ago.

Herzog said Löfven stressed that Sweden “wasn’t going to recognize a Palestinian state tomorrow morning” and “wants to speak first with all the relevant parties, including Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and other EU states.”

At the end of their conversation, Herzog said, Löfven suggested that he speak to Wallström, who soon called Herzog. She further explained Stockholm’s position on a Palestinian state and emphasized that circumstances would dictate her government’s actions. “We don’t want to surprise any of the relevant parties,” Herzog quoted her as saying.

Herzog said he reiterated to them the Labor Party’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with an exchange of territories, adding that this must emerge from direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. “Your policy challenges the principle of mutuality,” Herzog told them. “I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. Negotiations are preferable to unilateral moves that are liable to lead to undesirable consequences.”

The Swedish Embassy on Sunday distributed a Hebrew translation of the part of Löfven’s recent speech to parliament in which he addressed the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state. The distribution of the except, some of which was badly translated, led to reports in the Israeli media to the effect that Sweden was softening its policy such that recognition of a Palestinian state would come only as a result of negotiations with Israel. There were even reports that said that Sweden was backtracking as a result of Israeli pressure.

In fact, nothing had changed. The head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Middle East desk, Robert Rydberg, clarified this Sunday, writing in a message from his Twitter account that the Swedish government would recognize the Palestinian state “soon, not pending conclusion of negotiations.”