Netanyahu phones Swedish PM over ‘executions’ comment

Israeli leader slams remarks by FM Margot Wallstrom that suggested Palestinian terrorists face ‘extrajudicial executions’

Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom gives a statement to the media in Stockholm, Sweden, on the Paris terrorist attacks, on November 14, 2015. (AFP/TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery)
Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom gives a statement to the media in Stockholm, Sweden, on the Paris terrorist attacks, on November 14, 2015. (AFP/TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with his Swedish counterpart Stefan Löfven on Sunday to convey his criticism of recent comments about Israel by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.

Wallstrom on Friday told the Swedish parliament that Israel was conducting extrajudicial executions of Palestinian stabbers.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament Friday, she said Israel’s response to a wave of Palestinian stabbings and car-ramming attacks was “disproportionate,” and seemed to suggest the deaths of many attackers during their terror attacks were tantamount to “extrajudicial executions.”

“And likewise, the response must not be of the kind — and this is what I say in other situations where the response is such that it results in extrajudicial executions or is disproportionate in that the number of people killed on that side exceeds the original number of deaths many times over,” she was quoted as saying in the official English transcript released to Reuters by her office.

“This is the second time she refers to Israel and says things that are unacceptable to us and are not true,” Netanyahu told Löfven, according to Army Radio.

Netanyahu charged in the phone call that Wallstrom’s comments amounted to a double standard.

“I didn’t see [Wallstrom] say that last week in San Bernardino, or in the terror attack in Paris, when police forces killed the terrorists, that these were extrajudicial executions, as she said about Israel.”

The Foreign Ministry in Stockholm issued a clarification of Wallstrom’s remarks over the weekend, arguing that they had been misinterpreted.

“The foreign minister never said that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial executions,” said Wallstrom’s office. “The foreign minister made a general statement about international law and the right to self-defense, and the importance of proportionality and judiciousness. She was referring to both sides.”

A joint statement Sunday by Löfven and Wallstrom also charged that her comments were misrepresented. “The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not, as alleged, say that extrajudicial executions occur in Israel,” read the statement.

“The situation in the Middle East is difficult enough without having to be encumbered by misunderstandings about anybody’s intentions,” the statement added.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had already publicly criticized Wallstrom’s comments late Friday, calling them “delusional.”

“It’s an outrageous statement. Delusional, impudent and detached from reality,” the ministry, which is headed by Netanyahu, said in a statement. “The foreign minister of Sweden is proposing that Israeli citizens present their necks to the very murderers who want to stick their knives in.”

The statement said Israelis had the right to defend themselves against terrorism, and that Israel’s legal system guaranteed a fair judicial process for everyone.

“In Israel, every criminal is brought to court, including terrorists,” the Foreign Ministry said. “Israeli citizens are dealing with terrorism, which gets a boost from such irresponsible and mendacious statements.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Sweden Yitzhak Bachman Lavie also condemned the remarks, saying that “Israel’s moral standards in its war on terror are just as high as those of other Western countries facing the same threat.”

Lavie said that Israel has been more successful than other Western countries in preventing harm to its civilians. “One should condemn and act to stop the perpetrators, the financiers and the inciters of terrorism,” he added. “If we focus on condemning and preventing terrorism there will be no need for self-defense.”

Sweden has been among the countries most critical of Israel’s handling of the conflict with the Palestinians. Following the November 13 attacks in Paris, in which terrorists killed 130 people, Wallstrom asserted that the attacks were rooted in the frustration of Muslims in the Middle East, including that of Palestinians.

Sweden recognized the state of Palestine on October 30, 2014, a move that was widely criticized by Israel.

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