After decade of tension, Sweden mends ties with Israel

Ann Linde’s arrival is the first visit by a Swedish Foreign Minister to Israel in 10 years.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde arrived for a visit in Israel after years of a diplomatic rift between Jerusalem and Stockholm that began in 2014 following Sweden’s recognition of the “State of Palestine,” a period during which senior Swedish officials were not welcome in Israel.

Similarly, former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom repeatedly sparked outrage following her remarks which seemed to condone terrorism and appeared hostile to the Jewish state.

This is the first visit by a Swedish foreign minister to Israel in 10 years.

“This official visit marks a new beginning in the relationship between Israel and Sweden,” Linde stated upon her arrival in Israel on Sunday.

Linde met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Monday.

In his remarks, Lapid recalled his father’s “Wallenberg passport.” His father, Tommy Lapid, was a Holocaust survivor. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who issued passports to Jews and saved thousands of them in German-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust.

“It’s a document covered in seals and signatures, designed to hide the fact that Raoul Wallenberg had no authority whatsoever to grant it to my father. But he did. He gave Swedish immunity to my father and grandmother. He took them under his protection, and he saved their lives. And if not for that one brave Swedish diplomat, I would not be standing here today,” he noted.

“Sweden and Israel have a deep and long-standing friendship, with ties in trade and in culture. We also have a few disagreements. In recent years, these disagreements have caused us to move apart. Today, we are changing this,” declared Lapid.

“In my view, part of friendship is the ability to hear criticism, to hear different opinions on both sides. I appreciate what you told me – that behind the criticism, lies a deep Swedish commitment to Israel’s security, and to the right of the Jews to establish a state for ourselves in our historic homeland,” he said.

“The ties between us are not limited to the past, or to politics. We have a common desire to develop and advance, to realize the economic and social potential between our countries. To cultivate and grow connections in technology and trade, culture, and tourism. I believe that because of the page we are turning here today, there will be a whole new book of friendship and cooperation,” said Lapid.

Earlier in the day, Linde met with President Isaac Herzog.

Herzog welcomed the strengthening of ties between Israel and Sweden and “emphasized the importance of the indisputable fact of Israel’s unique status in the family of nations as the state of the Jewish People, which maintains equality between all its citizens and is a liberal democracy.”

The President also expressed appreciation for Sweden’s hosting of the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism last week. Herzog stressed the need for international unity in combating antisemitism in all forms

“Glad to help to relaunch high-level contacts between Israel and Sweden, to strengthen our dialogue and always speak frankly with each other,” said Herzog after the meeting.

Linde is also due to visit Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Antisemitism is also rising in the Scandinavian country. On Wednesday, the words “the Holocaust was a scam” were projected onto the walls of Malmo’s main synagogue. A neo-Nazi group called the Nordic Resistance Group claimed responsibility. In March, a survey of Malmo’s Jewish students found that every student interviewed had experience some kind of verbal or physical attack of an antisemitic nature.

An estimated 20,000 Jews live in Sweden.

World Israel News contributed to this report.