Israel Expels Norwegian Aid Worker During New Foreign Minister's First Official Visit

Border Authority blocked the return of a senior official of the local branch of a Norwegian aid group on grounds she requested visas for volunteers under false pretenses

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Erikson Soreid and Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, January 7, 2017.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Erikson Soreid and Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, January 7, 2017.Credit: Shlomi Amsalem, Foreign Ministry
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority on Sunday blocked the return to Israel of a senior activist with the local branch of a Norwegian aid organization that operates in the territories and in East Jerusalem.

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The activist with Norwegian Church Aid is accused of having asked over the past several years for visas for activists in the aid group’s name under false pretenses. According to the authority, after they arrived in Israel the activists did not engage in humanitarian work but in other activities, some of them political.

The incident occurred in the midst of the first official visit to Israel of the new Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide. Haaretz has learned that the activist had been living in Israel for several years and when she tried to return to Israel Sunday morning after a short trip abroad, she was refused entry. The spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, Sabine Hadad, said, “She was here on a work visa but her reentry was refused because she took advantage of her position to issue visas for those who are not entitled to them, in violation of procedures.”

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The Norwegian Embassy in Israel said it could not comment publicly on consular matters.

While the incident was taking place, Soreide was meeting with Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in the Prime Minister’s Office. According to Hotovely, the meeting was a diplomatic briefing that “stressed the threatening Iranian entrenchment and the importance Israel ascribes to altering the nuclear agreement.” In addition, according to the official statement on the meeting, “The Palestinian issue during the Trump era came up, in light of the American recognition of Jerusalem [as Israel’s capital].”

The Norwegian minister then met with President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin thanked Soreide for her government’s actions to fight anti-Semitism and said, “In recent years there has been a significant improvement.”

He also thanked the Norwegian government for its stand against boycotts and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“I believe that BDS leads to increasing hatred, and does not work against it, and it symbolizes all that stands in the way of dialogue, debate, and progress,” Rivlin said. “It is against all our cooperation and against our lives together here. You must work against it no less than we, because it stands in the way of progress.”

Soreide thanks him for the reception, saying it was very important to get the Israeli impression of the peace process and other developments in the region first hand. She added that the Norwegians believe in direct negotiations between the parties, because only direct dialogue could assure the security of both peoples.

On Monday, Soreide will meet with senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah. Later in the week she will fly from Israel to the United States.

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