Israel accuses Sweden of ‘diplomatic coup’

Israel has accused Sweden of trying to change the EU’s stance on Jerusalem and refer to the city as the official capital of Israel and Palestine while at the helm of the rotating EU presidency.

According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Friday, Israel’s foreign ministry has instructed its EU envoys to block what they call the “Swedish initiative.”

The newspaper claims that it has seen official statements by senior Swedish official and other documents which refer to Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.

”Israeli missions in Europe were instructed to investigate, discreetly, the position of the EU member states regarding the Swedish initiative,” the article states.

”And whether this was an attempt at a diplomatic coup or an initiative that enjoys broad support.”

According to the Israeli government, this new position could have a serious effect on EU contributions to the peace process.

However, a source from Sweden’s foreign ministry told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the evidence is unfounded. However, changes have been made to refer to Jerusalem as a future capital for Israel and Palestine.

”This has come about after requests from many member states and has been discussed by all 27 EU countries down to the smallest detail,” the source told DN.

”Essentially this is nothing new,” the source added. ”To achieve a lasting peace solution, it has long-been the understanding of the EU that Jerusalem needs to become the capital city of the two states.”

Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet also quotes a foreign ministry source who denies the allegations that a new position has been driven by Sweden.

”It sounds like an old assertion from Israel that Sweden wants to introduce a change in policy,” the source said.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since a controversial article was published in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from dead Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has expressed surprise that a cancelled visit by Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, planned for September, has yet to be rescheduled.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.