Sweden-Israel rift deepens over Palestinian deaths

Relations between the two have nose-dived since Sweden’s Social Democrat-led government recognized a Palestinian state last year

Published: Updated:

Relations between Sweden and Israel have hit a fresh low after Israel said Sweden’s foreign minister had accused it of unlawful killings and Stockholm responded by saying that the comments had been “blown out of reasonable proportion”.

Relations between the two countries have nose-dived since Sweden’s Social Democrat-led government recognized a Palestinian state last year. Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom deepened the rift by describing Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to radicalization.

In the latest row, Israel condemned as “scandalous” what it said was a suggestion by Wallstrom its forces had unlawfully killed Palestinians involved in a surge of street violence, and warned of a diplomatic rupture with Stockholm.

Sweden said Wallstrom’s comments had been misunderstood.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not, as alleged, say that extrajudicial executions occur in Israel,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Wallstrom said in a statement.

“The situation in the Middle East is difficult enough without having to be encumbered by misunderstandings about anybody’s intentions.”

Addressing Swedish lawmakers on Friday, Wallstrom denounced the almost daily Palestinian knife, gun or car-ramming attacks but urged Israel to avoid excessive force.

“And likewise, the response must not be of the kind - and this is what I say in other situations where the response is such that it results in extrajudicial executions or is disproportionate in that the number of people killed on that side exceeds the original number of deaths many times over,” Wallstrom said in the official English translation of her statement provided by the ministry.

Sweden said she had been talking in general terms about the principles of international law concerning self-defense and the importance of responding in a proportional manner.

Wallstrom’s remarks, however, touched a nerve in Israel, whose forces have killed 103 Palestinians since Oct. 1, of whom it has identified 64 as alleged assailants or who were caught on camera carrying out assaults. Most of the others died in clashes with police or troops.