Israeli officials “dance a jig” over Alliance win

The Alliance election victory may lead Sweden into a period of improved relations with Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post: "Nobody will admit it formally, but a few government officials in Jerusalem are dancing a jig over the defeat Sunday of Sweden's Social Democratic government."

Inge-Britt Lundin, a Liberal Party politician who was chairman of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association for twenty years, is equally pleased:

“There are a lot of strong personalities in the Alliance, particularly in the Liberal and Moderate parties, who look favourably on Israel. Fredrik Federley from the Centre Party is also very positive, as are quite a few Christian Democrats.”

Two incidents earlier this year seemed to indicate that the Social Democrats’ stance towards Israel had hardened. In April Göran Persson criticised Israel for its “warlike history” when Israeli involvement in an international airforce exercise led to Sweden pulling out. Just one month later Sweden broke with EU protocol when it issued a visa to a member of Hamas.

Green Party member of parliament Mehmet Kaplan supported both decisions. “We should have left the airforce exercise earlier when we knew that Israel would be involved. As for the other case, I saw it as a question of issuing a visa to an elected MP rather than a member of Hamas.”

However Kaplan does not believe that the new government will bring about any major changes. “I think that there might have been a change had the Liberals retained the number of votes they had at the last election. But the fact that they have lost a lot of support will mean things remain relatively unchanged.”

According to Lundin, “Göran Persson used to be quite friendly towards Israel but his attitude has changed over the last year. When Anna Lindh was around the Social Democrats had a sot of double act, where he spoke for one side and she for the other.”

The Jerusalem Post notes for example that in 2002 Lindh refused to accept the conclusions of a UN report clearing Israel of charges surrounding a massacre at the Jenin refugee camp.

Regarding the Social Democrats, Lundin feels that much will depend on who is made new party leader in March of next year. “Carin Jämtin is not at all fond of Israel. Per Nuder on the other hand has always been quite positive and I have never had any difficulty with Mona Sahlin.”

An unnamed senior Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post that “there is definitely an opportunity now to turn a new page. The Social Democrats went that extra mile in their criticism of Israel.”

Paul O’Mahony