In a Tuesday interview with Svergies Radio (SR), Israeli ambassador Isaac Bachman compared the release of Palestinian prisoners to setting the extreme-right ideologue free.
“The horrors that [the Palestinian prisoners] did, to put it in a Scandinavian understanding, it’s like what happened in Norway with Breivik,” he told SR.
“Imagine if Breivik was released as a gesture of some sort,” he added, explaining that Israel was not getting enough credit for agreeing to the release. “Research has shown that these people will return to crime. It’s not easy to get public support for releasing these people.”
The comments, which came on the eve of Israel’s Wednesday release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, sparked outrage from survivors and family members of victims of Breivik’s 2011 attack in Oslo and Utøya.
“I think it is ridiculous to compare this with a mass murderer from Norway,” Trond Blattmann, whose son Torjusdatter was killed when Breivik opened fire on Utøya, told The Local. “There’s no similarity at all. This is a ridiculous way to talk.”
“The comparison does not make sense,” added Bjørn Ihler, who survived the massacre by hiding on the southern tip of the island. “Breivik was a solo terrorist whose actions were based purely on an unreal situation. The situation in the Middle East is very different. There is a real fight for Palestinian freedom going on.”
Middle East expert Per Jönsson with the Swedish Institute for International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutets – UI) also slammed Bachman’s Breivik comparison.
“The comparison with Brevik is insane in several ways. Breivik is very special. These people that Israel is now releasing are freedom fighters, murderers, and in some cases terrorists, but they are nevertheless rather normal people,” he told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Breivik is currently serving a minimum 21-year prison sentence for killing 77 people and wounding 242 others in a gun and bomb massacre in Norway in July 2011.
A total of 104 Palestinian convicts, some of whom were seized for organizing terrorist attacks, are set to be released in four batches, depending on progress in the peace talks that began on Wednesday.
The move was part of an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry to get the Israelies and the Palestinians back to the peace-talk table after a five-year freeze in negotiations.
Israel announced 900 new settlements on Monday and Tuesday, leading some prominent Palestinians to call for a boycott of the talks.