STOCKHOLM (JTA) -Swedish Foreign Minister visited Israel on Monday and ended a seven-year freeze on diplomatic relations between the two former allies who had started disagreements over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Foreign Minister Ann Linde’s visit opens “a whole new book on friendship and cooperation”, said her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid. Israeli President Isaac Herzog said it symbolized the countries “turning a new leaf.”
“Sweden and Israel have a deep and long-lasting friendship, with extensive trade and cultural ties. There are also a lot of arguments. In recent years, these arguments have caused us to fall apart. Today we are changing that “, Lapid said at a press conference with Linde in Jerusalem on Monday.
The visit came less than a week later The Swedish government hosted a powerful international conference on combating anti-Semitism in Malmö, a city known in recent years for being a hotspot for that form of hatred.
Taken together, the two sentences signal the outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s wish to repair relations with Sweden’s local Jewish community and the Jewish state.
“On behalf of Sweden, I promise that we will say ‘never again’ and mean it,” Linde tweeted this Monday after a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial and museum of the Holocaust. “We will continue to take action to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms, to ensure that we never forget.”
Israel and Sweden had ceased formal relations in 2014, after Sweden officially recognized a Palestinian state. The following year, after the several terrorist attacks in Paris that led to 130 deaths, Sweden’s then Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, linked the murders to what she argued was a sense of hopelessness among Palestinians.
Since 2016, Wallström, a longtime outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state, has called for an investigation into how Israeli security forces reacted to Palestinian attackers during a violence. In response, Lapid, the then opposition leader in the Israeli parliament, replied called her anti-Semitic.
On Monday, Lapid – whose father and grandmother were among tens of thousands of Jews rescued by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg during the Holocaust – welcomed Linde to a press conference in Jerusalem.
“In my parents’ house there is a wooden box where my deceased father kept some souvenirs that survived the Holocaust. There is a yellow mark with the letter J, Jude – jud, some photographs and letters that somehow survived the war, says Lapid. And there is a ‘Wallenberg passport’, a document loaded with seals and signatures, designed to conceal the fact that Raoul Wallenberg had virtually no authority to grant it to my father. But he did … and saved their lives. ”
Linde said that “Sweden’s policy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” which supports a two-state solution, “has not changed.” She added that she was impressed by how Israel’s new government has shown that it is interested in improving the living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza, and that it has condemned violence by Israeli settlers.
On Tuesday she visited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah, emphasizing in the talks that Sweden wants to play “a greater role in renewing the peace process. ”
“I have invited both [Israel’s and the PA’s] Foreign Ministers to Stockholm, “Linde too told the Swedish newspaper Expressen. “But not at the same time, we take it step by step.”