Sweden’s ambassador to Israel has been summoned by Israel’s Foreign Ministry in protest of Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s announcement that his government would recognize the State of Palestine.
Lofven said in his inaugural address that “the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.”
“The two-state solution required mutual recognition and a will to co-exist peacefully. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” he said.
Lofven’s announcement makes Sweden the first member of the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state. The Swedish prime minister did not give a timeline of when the recognition would officially be given.
Several other European countries, including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, have recognized Palestine as a state but did so before becoming members of the EU.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said on Saturday that Sweden’s actions would hurt and weaken peacemaking efforts.
“The more international support the Palestinian receive without being required to negotiate and without paying their due in mutual concessions, the less likely an accord becomes,” he told Israel Radio.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman expressed in a statement that Sweden should focus on more important matters taking place in the Middle East, mainly ISIS.
“If the situation in the Middle East is what concerns the Swedish prime minister in his inaugural speech, he would be better off focusing on more pressing matters in the region such as the daily mass killings taking place in Syria, Iraq and other places,” the statement read.
The foreign minister expressed his frustration over the announcement and said it was unfortunate in that Lofven “likely has yet to have enough time to delve into matters and understand that the side which has been a spoiler for the past 20 years to advancing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians – is the Palestinians.”
“Swedish Prime Minister Lofven needs to understand that no declaration and no step by an outside player can replace the direct negotiations between the sides and a solution that will be part of a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the entire Arab world,” Liberman added.
Sweden’s announcement comes on the heels of news that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be submitting a resolution to the UN Security Council asking for a full Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 border by 2016.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed Lofven’s announcement and encouraged other EU countries to follow Sweden’s example.
“In the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, we thank and salute the Swedish position,” he said in a statement.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that while the US looks forward to working with the new Swedish government, recognizing a Palestinian state is “premature.”
“We believe that the process is one that has to be worked out through the parties to agree on the terms of how they’ll live in the future of two states living side-by-side,” she said.