JERUSALEM (JTA) — Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman of Israel said he will summon the ambassador from Sweden after that country’s new prime minister said his government would recognize the state of Palestine.
Liberman said in a Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday that he regrets the new prime minister, Stefan Loven, “was quick to issue statements regarding the position of Sweden on recognition of a Palestinian state. He apparently has not yet had sufficient time to study the matter and to understand that it is the Palestinians who have for the past 20 years been an obstacle to reaching an agreement with Israel.”
Lofven, the statement said, “must understand that no declaration and no measure by an external party can serve as a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties and a solution that will be part of an overall arrangement between Israel and the entire Arab world. If what concerns the Prime Minister of Sweden in his inaugural address is the situation in the Middle East, he would better focus on the more urgent problems in the region, such as the daily mass murder taking place in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.”
In his inaugural address to parliament on Friday, Lofven said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law. A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”
Lofven did not say when Sweden would recognize Palestinian statehood. His center-left Social Democrats party took 31.2 percent of the vote in an election last month and formed a coalition with the Green Party.
Seven European Union members already have recognized a Palestinian state. They are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania. Iceland also has done so.
The United States called the Swedish declaration “premature.”
“We believe that the process is one that has to be worked out through the parties to agree on the terms of how they’ll live in the future of two states living side by side,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa that he hopes the rest of the world will follow Sweden’s example. He called the Swedish announcement a “bold step” and called the position “great and honorable.”