January 14, 2006

Norway bows to American pressure but don't tell the UK Jewish community

Here's a report from yesterday's Jewish Chronicle [pay for sub] on how the Norwegian government dealt with a statement by their Finance Minister, Kristin Halvorsen, supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.
Anger over boycott call

By Joseph Millis
Kristin Halvorsen, Norway’s Finance Minister, this week apologised for calling for a boycott on Israeli goods.

In an interview last week, Ms Halvorsen — the leader of the Norwegian Socialist Party — said: “My and the Socialist Left’s goal is for Norwegian consumers to decide to drop products and services from Israel, and make other choices in the shops.”

The interview drew sharp criticism from Israel and from Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, who sent a letter to Israel’s ambassador in Oslo, reassuring her that a boycott of Israel would never be a part of the government’s policy.

He wrote that a government-backed boycott of Israel would “be unthinkable. It is not in the government platform. It is not Labour’s policy. It is not the Centre Party’s policy. It will not become the government’s policy.”

Ms Halvorsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that she should “not have advocated a policy which is not supported by a majority in the Cabinet. It is clear that this has contributed towards confusion and uncertainty around what is official Norwegian foreign policy. For this I have expressed my regrets to the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and the rest of the government members. And I now express my regrets officially, in order to clarify.”

The statement was welcomed by the Israeli embassy in Oslo which said it appreciated “the unequivocal position of the Norwegian government opposing any boycott whatsoever against Israel. We appreciate the efforts made by the Norwegian Government and especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Store, who clarified the position of the Norwegian foreign policy, reiterating time and again that Norway is a friend of Israel and that the two countries enjoy close bilateral relations based on long-standing historical ties.”
Now do you see the bit where "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Norway with "serious political consequences" after Finance Minister and Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen admitted to supporting a boycott of Israeli goods?" No? That's because it isn't there. For that you have to go to Aftenposten (news from Norway). [tip - DaveG]
Here's the rest of the article:
The reaction was reportedly given to the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC, and it was made clear that the statements came from the top level of the US State Department, newspaper VG reports.

VG claims that two classified reports promised a "tougher climate" between the USA and Norway if Halvorsen's remarks represented the foreign policy of the new red-green alliance of the Labor, Socialist Left and Center parties.

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, responded immediately with written explanations to both Israel and the USA, clarifying the government's stance, while Halvorsen distanced her party's policy from that of the government's.

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