by | Aftenposten | 6 January 2006
Norway's prime minister and foreign minister were busy with damage control tasks late this week, after one of their government's coalition parties called for a boycott of Israeli products. And just when Israel's own prime minister was lying gravely ill.
The Norwegian government has long supported Israel and has been active in years of attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That's what Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg tried to stress, when downplaying the boycott call by the Socialist Left party (SV).
Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen hails from the Socialist Left herself, and acknowledged her party's boycott call. She tried to distance herself from it, stressing that the boycott wasn't government policy, but the damage was done.
Israel's ambassador to Norway immediately appeared on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)'s nightly news, to complain about and criticize the boycott call. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr StÝre felt compelled to send a letter to the Israelis, in an attempt to clarify that the government doesn't condone a boycott and remains a supporter of Israel.
Political researcher Sverre Lodgaard said Friday that Halvorsen's party's boycott now limits the government's ability to criticize Israel when needed. "The government will get much more limited room for negotiation after this," he said.