Kjell Magne Bondevik
Kjell Magne BondevikReuters

At a conference on tolerance in Europe, a former leader of Norway said that Israel was part of the problem undermining efforts to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Kjell Magne Bondevik, whose last term as Norwegian prime minister ended in 2005, singled out Pakistan, India and the Jewish state in a speech Tuesday in Monaco’s Casino Monte Carlo during a conference on tolerance by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation — a think tank headed by European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“We have used wars and occupation of Muslim countries,” Bondevik, a Lutheran pastor and founder of the Oslo Center, said in prefacing his comments about nuclear proliferation. “Of course this does not excuse terrorism but we need to be more consistent. The same can be said about nuclear proliferation, but how to approach countries like Pakistan, India and Israel? Is this a double standard? We have to question ourselves and we have to be aware that many in the Muslim world may use this as an excuse and talk of double standard in this regard.”

Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress and of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, said that Bondevik’s observation is part of “endless talk” on this subject, which he said does not help find practical solutions.

“This attitude in which everything is seen as connected, if we continue we will never come to see the realization of our goal: Practical, on-the-ground recommendations for civil society,” Kantor said at the conference in Monaco, titled “Tackling Extremism and Intolerance in a Diverse Society.”

In 2015, Iran and six other world powers agreed to lift international sanctions from the Islamic Republic in exchange for its dialing back of some elements of its nuclear program, which Western intelligence agencies said was aimed at achieving offensive capabilities. However, Iran's missile production has tripled since the deal was signed, and the country has made clear that is ready to annihilate Israel.

Both India and Pakistan have claimed they do not have nuclear weapons. Israel is believed to possess them, as well, but it has neither denied nor confirmed this.

Regardless of whether or not Israel has nuclear weapons, the Jewish state has declared that it will not be the first to test nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

In a second possible reference to Israel, Bondevik claimed that a main reason for “extremism is humiliation, and occupation can create the feeling of humiliation.”