Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Ann Linde, stressed during her visit to Israel on Monday that her country is a friend of Israel.
“We might not always agree, but good friends disagree,” Linde said at a press conference with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, in comments quoted by The Associated Press. “And I think it’s really, really important that you know that Sweden is a friend of Israel.”
Lapid thanked her for reiterating Sweden’s support for Israel and for Sweden’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
“I believe that because of the page we are turning here today, there will be a whole new book of friendship and cooperation,” he added.
Lapid and Linde held a telephone conversation in September, marking the first time in seven years that the foreign ministers of the two countries have spoken.
“I appreciate her statement regarding Sweden’s strong and solid commitment to the security of Israel and her recognition in the course of our conversation of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” Lapid tweeted following the conversation.
Sweden and Israel have had tense relations in recent years, beginning when Linde’s predecessor, Margot Wallstrom, made a series of anti-Israel statements.
In 2014, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman denounced Sweden’s decision to recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as "the State of Palestine", saying 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 accused Israel of being “extremely aggressive” and claimed the Jewish state was “irritating its allies”.
In 2016, Wallstrom was refused meetings with Israeli ministers during her visit to the region. She did visit Ramallah, where PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas decorated her with an award he calls the Grand Star of the Order of Jerusalem.
Linde, shortly after taking office in 2019, spoke of her desire to strengthen her country’s ties with the State of Israel, but at the same time also said that she believed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is not anti-Semitic, but rather a legitimate and non-violent movement.
Linde noted at the time that she is opposed to boycotts, but also said that a boycott is a legitimate means of using a non-violent political struggle regarding human rights and “occupation”.