Swedish officials unwelcome in Israel, deputy foreign minister says

Officials from Stockholm are currently unwelcome in Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely declared Wednesday, protesting a statement in which Sweden's foreign minister questioned Israel's response to a recent series of attacks by Palestinians.

Israel on Wednesday evening also summoned the Swedish ambassador to Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry, spokesman Emmanuel Nashon said. 

“Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden,” Hotovely said during a briefing for future Israeli diplomats currently taking the cadets’ course, The Times of Israel news site reported.

Hotovely's announcement came a day after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called for an investigation to determine whether Israel had extrajudicially executed Palestinians in recent months.

She was referring to a series of attacks - usually involving knives or cars being driven into crowds - during which Palestinians have attempted to kill Israelis. In many cases, authorities have killed the Palestinians during the attack or shortly thereafter.

Wallstrom had called in parliament in Stockholm for a "credible" probe. 

"It is essential that thorough and credible investigations be conducted concerning these deaths with the aim of providing clarity and bringing about possible accountability," she said.

Israel was "furious" about the call, which "distorts reality" and show that Wallstrom "doesn't understand what's going on in our region and apparently is unaware of the difficult situation, in which Israeli citizens are exposed to constant danger of murderous terrorist attacks," Nahshon said in a statement.

"Sweden in the foreseeable future has removed itself from any role or glimmer of a role in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians," said the statement, accusing her of an anti-Israel bias.

In her remarks Tuesday, Wallstrom said that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and human rights groups have also raised concerns over the deaths and "disproportionate" Israeli response.

Wallstrom also condemned acts of violence carried out by Palestinians against Israelis.

The parliamentary debate was requested by Jan Bjorklund, leader of the opposition Liberals, who had asked Wallstrom to explain remarks she made in December about the attacks that also triggered criticism from Israel.

Palestinians have launched more than 100 knife attacks against Israelis since October 1. Additionally, there have been several dozen incidents involving car rammings and shootings.

More than 140 Palestinians - many of them knife attackers - and 24 Israelis have been killed in the violence.

Wallstrom had planned to visit Israel early last year, but canceled after Israel said she would not be received by Israeli officials in protest of Sweden's decision to recognize Palestine.

Last update: Wed, 13/01/2016 - 21:14

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