On Thursday, Sweden became the largest country in Western Europe to recognize a Palestinian state. This decision received strong criticism from Israel, which responded by promptly withdrawing its ambassador from Stockholm.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, insisted that the Palestinians have met all of the necessary standards for recognition, saying that they have “a territory, a people and government.”
The Associated Press reported that Sweden’s choice “reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
In addition to withdrawing their ambassador from Sweden, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avidor Lieberman, defined Sweden’s declaration as “a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism.”
“The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility,” Lieberman said.
According to the New York Times, Sweden’s decision to recognize Palestine was made by the country’s new prime minister, Stefan Lofven, who “ignored Israeli protests and followed through on a pledge he made at his inauguration this month.”
A Senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, said that Sweden had made a “principled and courageous decision.”
On behalf of the Palestinians, Ashrawi said they hope both other members of the European Union, and other countries around the world, “will follow Sweden’s lead and recognize Palestine before the chances for a two-state solution are destroyed indefinitely.”
According to the Associated Press, although Israel claims, “Palestinians can gain independence only through peace negotiations, and that recognition of Palestine at the U.N. or by individual countries undermines the negotiating process,” Palestinians say that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “isn’t serious about the peace negotiations.”
As previously reported, Sweden’s declaration to recognize a Palestinian state follows the same decision made earlier in October by members of Britain’s Parliament.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry took to its Twitter account to announce the decision with a Tweet that said the Swedish government “expressed hopes for peaceful coexistence” between Israel and Palestine.