Sweden’s false steps


Whether it was a declaration of diplomatic independence or a move designed to give the peace process a boost, the announcement last week by new Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven that his country plans to recognize the state of Palestine is unwelcome. While it is true that more than 130 countries have already recognized Palestine as an independent state, the European Union in general has not. (Some E.U. members, such as Poland, did so before joining the E.U.) If Sweden does extend official recognition – no timetable was announced – it would be the first E.U. state to do so.

In announcing the planned recognition, Lofven said it was in line with Sweden’s belief in a two-state solution with mutual recognition between the parties. The Israeli government rejected that argument, and Sweden’s ambassador to Israel was given a dressing down Monday by a Foreign Ministry official who said that “not only does the move not promote the diplomatic process, but rather harms it, and leads to a deterioration of the situation on the ground and reduces the prospects of reaching an agreement because it creates false expectations among the Palestinians that unilateral steps will solve the conflict.”

Israel’s opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, also criticized the announcement, telling the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, “Your policy challenges the principle of mutuality. I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.”

Sweden and Israel enjoy warm relations. And while Sweden’s declaration on Palestinian statehood is problematic, there is nothing in the decision that will greatly harm Israel.

Rather, the decision, and discussions about it, are a distraction from the core issues of the conflict – recognition, violence, settlements – issues that Sweden can’t solve on its own. What worries us, however, is that Sweden may be a precursor of a general European move away from Israel, a development that the current Israeli leadership does not seem very focused upon or able to head off.
Lofven told Herzog that Sweden will not recognize Palestine without discussions with all the relevant parties.

We take Lofven at his word and hope that his government will give careful consideration to the potential negative ramifications of its planned decision. And, during those discussions, we hope that American and Israeli representatives who talk with Sweden will voice clear concern about something the new government in Stockholm is actually in a position to do something about: the growing anti-Semitic threats to Sweden’s Jews.


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