MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) – Sweden’s ambassador to Israel will be summoned to the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem Monday over Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s remarks before Swedish parliament on its readiness to recognize the state of Palestine, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website reported Sunday.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he regrets the newly-inaugurated Prime Minister’s “hasty” remarks, saying that Lofven “apparently has not yet had sufficient time to study the matter and to understand that it is the Palestinians who have...been an obstacle to reaching an agreement with Israel,” a statement posted on the ministry’s website reads.
On Friday, Löfven said that Sweden would become the first state in the EU to recognize the state of Palestine, noting that “the two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to co-exist peacefully,” and that “Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.” He did not specify exactly when or how this would occur.
Lieberman added that if Sweden’s Prime Minister was so concerned about issues in the Middle East, he would do better to focus on problems in Syria and Iraq, noting that declarations by “outside forces” would not aid in bringing about a negotiated solution, according to the Times of Israel.
Adding his concerns, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzahi Hanegbi told Israel Radio that “without being required to negotiate and...paying their due in mutual concessions,” a successful accord could not be reached, the Times of Israel reported.
Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Issac Bachman stated that he believes the “anti-Israeli” decision taken by Löfven, the leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, is in part the result of pressure from “the large Arab minority, which has grown unbelievably this year.” Bachman noted that there are over 700,000 Muslims in the country, which grew by 80,000 last year alone, another piece in the Times of Israel noted.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, understandably pleased with the decision, said in a statement that “in the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, we thank and salute the Swedish position.”
Palestinian parliamentarian Dr. Saeb Erekat added that he hopes “that all countries of the European Union will take the same courageous and remarkable decision.”
The United States and the European Union were critical of Sweden’s unilateral decision.
US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki called Sweden's decision “premature,” adding that Palestinian statehood “can only come through a negotiated outcome.” The US’s own efforts to foster a peace plan collapsed earlier this year.
The EU’s commentary was similar in tone; a statement by the EU’s External Action Service noted that the decision was “highly detrimental” to efforts toward negotiated peace, and that they undermined “prospects for a two-state solution.”
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi welcomed Sweden’s recognition, responding to criticisms from the US and the EU by noting that “those who claim to support the two-state solution must realize that in order to reach it, what’s missing is a sovereign Palestinian state.” She added that “conditioning recognition...on the outcome of negotiations with Israel is equivalent to making our right to self-determination an Israeli prerogative,” the Jerusalem Post reports.
Britain’s Parliament is set to vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood later this month as the result of an initiative led by the country’s Labour Party, the Guardian has said.
Löfven’s decision is set to shift Sweden’s policy, which has long supported the creation of a Palestinian state, but had said earlier that this could not occur until the Palestinians gain control over their own territories.
The Palestinians seek to create an independent state on territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967, including the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which they seek to make their capital. This is complicated by the Israeli policy of building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and by Israel's refusal to negotiate over any part of Jerusalem.
Palestine has been recognized by the UN as a non-member observer state since November 2012, when its status was upgraded from that of an ‘observer entity’. It has been recognized by 134 members of the UN, including Russia, the other BRICS countries, and even the Holy See.
Several EU member countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and Romania had also recognized Palestine, but they did so before joining the EU, which intends to create a coordinated EU-wide policy on the matter.