Sweden: FM's remarks were 'misunderstood'

Swedish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister say Israel blew out of proportion the comments about it executing terrorists without trial.

Ben Ariel ,

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s remarks on Israel were “misunderstood”, she said in a joint statement with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven Sunday night.

Wallstrom caused a firestorm in Israel after accusing the Jewish state of “extrajudicial executions” of terrorists who carry out stabbing attacks in remarks before parliament on Friday.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Loefven and expressed his displeasure over Wallstrom’s remarks.

Netanyahu also pointed out the double standards in the Swedish Foreign Minister’s remarks, saying, "I did not see her saying that last week in San Bernardino, or the attack in Paris when police killed the terrorists, that those were executions as she had said about Israel."

But in a statement later, Wallstrom and Loefven said that it was “unfortunate that statements on the situation in the Middle East by representatives of the Swedish Government are misunderstood and blown out of reasonable proportion.”

“The most recent misunderstanding concerns the interpellation debate in the Swedish Riksdag on Friday. The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not, as alleged, say that extrajudicial executions occur in Israel; she talked in general terms about principles of international law concerning the right of self-defense and the importance of the principles of proportionality and distinction,” the statement stressed.

“The situation in the Middle East is difficult enough without having to be encumbered by misunderstandings about anybody's intentions. And it is unfortunate when strong reactions are based on false premises,” it continued.

“The Government completely rejects violence against civilians. All acts of terrorism are despicable and must be universally condemned. We seek good relations with both Israel and Palestine. This includes our desire to deepen and develop our relations with Israel.

“The Government's support for a two-state solution in the Middle East peace process is based on the aim that Israel and Palestine will be able to live side by side in peace and security. Israel's security, and our bilateral relationship with Israel, are fundamental components of our commitment to the peace process. We in Sweden seek to be a friend to both Israel and Palestine, while expressing ourselves clearly on issues where there is disagreement,” concluded Wallstrom and Loefven.

Wallstrom’s remarks on Friday marked the latest in a series of problematic statements she has made with regards to Israel.

Several weeks ago, the Swedish minister provoked a firestorm of criticism, when she appeared to blame the terrorist attacks in Paris on "Palestinian frustration" with Israel.

Wallstrom also engaged in a back and forth with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman a year ago. Liberman, in denouncing Sweden’s decision to recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as "the State of Palestine," said that “relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA”.

Wallstrom later replied and said she would be “happy” to send Liberman some IKEA furniture “and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner.”

Following that incident, Wallstrom said Israel had overreacted to her country’s recognition of “Palestine”, accusing Israel of “irritating its allies”.