Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven further strained his country’s relationship with Israel Monday, saying he does not consider stabbing attacks in Israel to constitute terrorism.
“No, it is not classified as [terrorism],” Lofven said in an interview to the Swedish news agency TT. “There is an international classification regarding what constitutes or does not constitute [terror]. As far as I know, the [knife attacks in Israel] are not defined as terror.”
Later in the day, Lofven contacted TT again to clarify his message, fearing what he called a “misunderstanding.”
“I meant that it was unclear if the knife attacks are organized by a group classified as a terrorist organization,” Lofven told the agency. “Nonetheless, the attacks themselves do constitute terror.”
Ties between Israel and Sweden have soured in recent weeks following a series of comments by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and suggesting a link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, claimed by the Islamic State.
Last week, Wallstrom said that Israel was conducting “extrajudicial executions” of Palestinian stabbers, calling the Israeli response to the terrorist attacks “disproportionate.”
Israel has suffered near-daily stabbing attacks by Palestinians in recent months, part of an ongoing wave of violence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Lofven on Sunday to complain about Wallstrom’s comments and warn his Swedish counterpart against applying double standards to terror attacks in Israel and other countries.
Netanyahu slammed Wallstrom’s comments in a Likud faction meeting on Monday. “There isn’t one moral standard for Israel and one for the rest of the world,” Netanyahu said.
Wallstrom later said that her comments had been “misunderstood.”
A joint statement by Lofven and Wallstrom on Sunday read, “The situation in the Middle East is difficult enough without having to be encumbered by misunderstandings about anybody’s intentions.”
Sweden has been among the Western countries most critical of Israel’s handling of the conflict with the Palestinians.
On October 30, 2014, Sweden became the first EU country to officially recognize the state of Palestine, a move that was widely criticized by Jerusalem.