“If we receive the mandate to govern, we are open to recognising a Palestinian state,” Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre said in a speech at the party's annual conference. ”Palestinians have a right to their own state. We should be careful not to sit here in Norway prescribing other solutions."
In his speech, Støre talked of his meetings with both Israelis and Palestinians during a recent visit to the region.
Sweden's new red-green coalition government recognised Palestine as soon as it took office in October last year, triggering strong protests from Israel.
“The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement at the time.
Norway has a long been involved as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting the secret negotiations in Oslo which led to the first Oslo accord in 1993.
The accord marked the first time that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the state of Israel formally recognised one another.
Israel’s ambassador to Norway Raphael Schutz was highly critical of the Labour Party’s move.
”It is a mistake because a recognition will neither contribute to peace or to real Palestinian independence," Schutz said in a statement published by NRK.
"On the contrary it will only make it harder to reach this goal. It creates a false impression among Palestinians that they can achieve their goals without negotiating with Israel.”
The Labour Party move can also be seen as a reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hardening stance on Palestinian statehood and Israeli settlements in Palestine.
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In a video interview ahead of the elections held on 17th March this year he said that:
“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack ground to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he said. “This is the actual reality that has formed here in recent years. Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand.”