International

Sweden Recognizes Palestine, Drawing Sharp Israeli Criticism

Sweden today recognized Palestine, just weeks after incoming Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said his government would become the first major European nation to make the move.

In response, Israel's Foreign Ministry recalled Isaac Bachman, its ambassador to Sweden, for consultations. The Haaretz newspaper cited an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying Bachman would remain in Jerusalem until further notice and that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was considering downgrading relations with Sweden.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom described the recall as a maneuver that "is part of the diplomatic tool kit."

"I am convinced that both our countries have an interest in maintaining and strengthening our good bilateral ties," Wallstrom said.

Her comments were reported by The Associated Press.

Lieberman called Sweden's decision "very unfortunate," adding: "The Swedish government needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from Ikea that you assemble at home, and [Sweden] should act with responsibility and sensitivity."

Wallstrom responded to that barb with this quip: "I will be happy to send Israel FM Lieberman an Ikea flat pack to assemble. He'll see it requires a partner, cooperation and a good manual."

Today's move by Sweden places the Scandinavian nation among more than 100 others that recognize a Palestinian state. Most Western nations still don't recognize Palestine, and many said they don't plan to follow Sweden. EU member states — such as Hungary and Poland — that do recognize a Palestinian state did so before they joined the bloc.

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