In the Hebrew daily, Ma’ariv, Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevje, was interviewed on Tuesday and asked whether the attacks in Oslo and Utøya carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, will alter Norwegians’ perception of Palestinian attacks on Israel.
Q: Has this caused you to undertake some soul-searching? Has it changed Norway’s and its citizens’ opinion as to what the international community calls the battle against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank?
Probably not. We Norwegians consider the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel. Many Norwegians still consider the occupation to be the reason for the attacks on Israel. Those who believe this will not change their mind because of the attack in Oslo.
Q: In general, the perception in Israel is that you are against us. Why?
You have to explain to me why Israelis perceive us to be against you. I don’t think that Norway is anti-Israel, but rather criticism of the occupation and what we consider a violation of international law and support for the Palestinians’ right to have a state. We have supported Israel since its establishment. And then 1967 came along and the occupation and the settlements—and Norway’s attitude toward Israel changed. The Palestinians are the weak side, and Norway tends to support the weak side. Incidentally, Israelis may be surprised to learn the depth of the connection between Israel and Norway. For example, the Norwegian pension fund invested a billion dollars in Israeli companies. This is despite the fact that there are Israeli companies in which we don’t invest because they violate international law and are building the separation fence.
Q: Some Israelis would say that the terror attack in Norway is an “eye for an eye” for your positions against Israel.
Then I say that they are mistaken. The Norwegians will not change their position because of what happened. It will not change our understanding of international law and justice.
Q: Will this terrible terror attack have ramifications for the Muslim community in your country?
I will quote from Sholem Aleichem’s play Tevye the Milkman, in which I played the small role of Rabbi Nahum the butcher in 1968. When they were persecuted, one of the Jews said they should restore “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to the pogroms. Tevye said: “and we’ll do this until the world no longer has any teeth or eyes?” In other words, the answer is no. As our prime minister said: we will respond with more openness, transparency and democracy.
Q: Why are you, out of all the important Europe states, the only one to say in a clear voice that you will support recognition of Palestinian state in the UN?
Norway has said that it prefers an arrangement reached through negotiations, but we think that it is legitimate for the Palestinian side to go to the UN.
Q: If you were the world policeman today, what would your parameters be for resuming the talks?
In general, resuming the negotiations would be based on the 1967 borders with a land swap on a scale of 1:1, dividing Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, a symbolic solution to the refugee problem and compensation by means of a fund to the refugees.
Q: Are you in favor of a political dialogue with Hamas?
We have no political dialogue with Hamas, but we do have connections on the level of senior officials and we meet with them. Can Israel and the Palestinians solve the problems without Hamas? I don’t think so.