Israel has summoned Sweden’s ambassador in Tel Aviv after the Scandinavian country’s newly elected prime minister pledged that his government would recognise a Palestinian state.
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Stefan Lofven was rushing to a decision without understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Avigdor Lieberman said that he regrets that the new prime minister was in a hurry to make statements on Sweden’s position regarding recognition of a Palestinian state, apparently before he had time even to study the issue in depth,” Lieberman’s office quoted him as saying, in a statement issued late on Saturday.
It added that Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus Nesser, “will be invited for a talk at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem,” but did not say when.
A Swedish foreign ministry spokesman said Nesser had been summoned to the ministry on Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is opposed to any unilateral action that does not help to reach peace, but on the contrary just makes the prospect for it more distant,” the premier’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to co-exist peacefully.
Social Democrat leader Lofven – who narrowly won last month’s general election – said in his inaugural speech on Friday that his government wanted to bolster a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
No timeframe for the formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been announced. The decision does not need parliamentary approval to be enforced.
“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to co-exist peacefully,” Lofven told parliament.
This should take place with respect for the “legitimate demands of the Palestinians and the Israelis as regards their right to self-determination and security”, he added.
Lofven met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah in 2012 and told him that Sweden would recognise Palestine should the Social Democrats return to power.
Sweden voted in favour of Palestinian observer status at the UN in 2012, which was granted despite opposition from the US and other countries.
Seven EU members in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state, namely Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.
Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so.
Lofven’s statement was warmly welcomed by the Palestinians but the US, Israel’s ally, said it was a step too soon.
“We believe international recognition of a Palestinian state is premature,” said the US state department’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.
Reacting to the US remarks, new foreign minister and former EU commissioner Margot Wallstrom said criticism had been expected and that “it is not the US that determines our policies”.
While in opposition, the Social Democrats and the Green Party, now governing together, had demanded Swedish recognition of Palestine.
But the former ruling centre-right coalition opposed such a move, arguing that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians must be in place before recognition is possible.