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Israel to Sweden: the peace process is not like Ikea furniture

It hasn’t been a great year for Israeli-Swedish relations. First there was the controversy over an anti-Semitic article about Israelis stealing organs in a Swedish tabloid, which both governments blew up into a much bigger issue than it needed to be. Then this week, Sweden, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, issued a proposal ...

It hasn't been a great year for Israeli-Swedish relations. First there was the controversy over an anti-Semitic article about Israelis stealing organs in a Swedish tabloid, which both governments blew up into a much bigger issue than it needed to be. Then this week, Sweden, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, issued a proposal calling for the EU to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. EU foreign ministers adopted a somewhat watered-down version of the draft today, but the war of words between Israel and Sweden continues:

"The peace process in the Middle East is not like IKEA furniture," one official said, making a reference to the do-it-yourself Swedish furniture chain. "It takes more than a screw and a hammer, it takes a true understanding of the constraints and sensitivities of both sides, and in that Sweden failed miserably."

The Foreign Ministry said that Tuesday's EU statement was substantially softer than Sweden's initial draft, once again demonstrating Sweden's failure as the rotating president of the union. "Sweden has done nothing over recent months to advance the Middle East peace process," the Foreign Ministry officials said. "The EU's only saving grace is that some of its members are responsible and moderate nations that didn't support the Swedish draft, which looked like something taken out of the Fatah platform at the Bethlehem conference." 

It hasn’t been a great year for Israeli-Swedish relations. First there was the controversy over an anti-Semitic article about Israelis stealing organs in a Swedish tabloid, which both governments blew up into a much bigger issue than it needed to be. Then this week, Sweden, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, issued a proposal calling for the EU to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. EU foreign ministers adopted a somewhat watered-down version of the draft today, but the war of words between Israel and Sweden continues:

"The peace process in the Middle East is not like IKEA furniture," one official said, making a reference to the do-it-yourself Swedish furniture chain. "It takes more than a screw and a hammer, it takes a true understanding of the constraints and sensitivities of both sides, and in that Sweden failed miserably."

The Foreign Ministry said that Tuesday’s EU statement was substantially softer than Sweden’s initial draft, once again demonstrating Sweden’s failure as the rotating president of the union. "Sweden has done nothing over recent months to advance the Middle East peace process," the Foreign Ministry officials said. "The EU’s only saving grace is that some of its members are responsible and moderate nations that didn’t support the Swedish draft, which looked like something taken out of the Fatah platform at the Bethlehem conference." 

Please. The original draft praises both Israel’s settlement freeze and U.S. mediation efforts. You can debate whether or not it’s productive for Sweden to be issuing proclamations on where the Palestinian border should be drawn, but in the end, these declarations have only about as much weight as the parties involved choose to give them. Which, judging from the righteous outrage out of Avigdor Lieberman’s shop, seems to be quite a lot. This sort of thing might play well to Lieberman’s political base, but internationally it just gives the EU’s East Jerusalem critique way more publicity than it would have had before. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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