US embassy cable - 06OSLO28

NORWAY'S FINANCE MINISTER BACKS DOWN ON ISRAEL BOYCOTT STATEMENT

Identifier: 06OSLO28
Wikileaks: View 06OSLO28 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Oslo
Created: 2006-01-09 10:58:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV ETRD IS NO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L  OSLO 000028 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
NSC FOR ABRAMS, DAMON WILSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2016 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ETRD, IS, NO 
SUBJECT: NORWAY'S FINANCE MINISTER BACKS DOWN ON ISRAEL 
BOYCOTT STATEMENT 
 
REF: OSLO 19 
 
Classified By: P/E Counselor Mike Hammer, reason 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C) Summary.  On Friday, January 7 a shamed Kristin 
Halvorsen publicly apologized for her earlier comments 
supporting a boycott of Israeli goods and services.  An 
unofficial translation of her comments is given below in 
paragraph 2.  While all the major papers in Norway are united 
in their criticism of Halvorsen's actions and are glad that 
she and her party may have learned an important lesson about 
how to behave in government, anti-Israeli sentiment in Norway 
remains high.  The incident clearly calls into question 
Norway's future role as a peace-broker in Middle East.  End 
Summary. 
 
2.  (U) On January 7, Norwegian Finance Minister and junior 
Coalition party (SV) leader Kristin Halvorsen apologized for 
her statements on January 4 supporting her Socialist Left 
party's policy of boycotting Israel.  "As Finance Minister I 
should not have spoken in favor of a policy towards Israel 
that is not in line with official Norwegian foreign policy. 
This has contributed to a lack of clarity and uncertainty 
about what Norwegian policy is in this area.  I have 
apologized to the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and 
the other Cabinet members.  And I want to say this publicly 
as well, to contribute to clarity.  As Finance Minister I 
must, especially because it concerns foreign policy 
questions, leave this (issue) to the Foreign Minister, 
because it's his responsibility, and keep myself to the 
official Norwegian policy.  I cannot pursue or argue for 
actions or a policy that is in contradiction to what the 
majority in the government support....  My main public role 
is Finance Minister, and that means that I, in such delicate 
questions where SV has a different view than government 
policy, must shut my mouth."  When asked if she would she 
would apologize to Israel, as demanded by some opposition 
party figures, Halvorsen responded, "I understand that this 
is a sensitive question for Israel.  I therefore now make it 
clear that I do not advocate a different policy than that 
which is the government's line." 
 
3.  (U) Halvorsen's comments were the center of political 
debate in Norway over the weekend.  All the major papers have 
criticized her for her earlier statements and hope that she 
and her party have learned a lesson as to how a government 
party and a minister need to behave.  A party colleague 
reports that Halvorsen personally has been "absolutely 
devastated" by the consequences of her statement.  Also, 
major dailies are reporting that senior political figures in 
the Prime Minister's office have compared Halvorsen's 
comments to pre-war anti-Semitic actions in Norway.  Such 
painful allegations of anti-Semitism have forced SV to 
publicly say that the party's central board will reopen the 
question of whether or how to pursue a policy of boycotting 
Israel.  However, anti-Israeli sentiment runs high in Norway; 
for example, over the weekend the youth wing of Labor Party 
told the press that it still believes that Israeli PM Sharon 
is a "war criminal." 
 
4.  (U) Halvorsen's comments also have reopened a debate 
about Norway's position with regard to the Israel-Palestinian 
conflict.  Many Norwegian commentators are anxious to point 
out that the uncertainty created by Halvorsen about Norwegian 
foreign policy call Norway's credibility as a peace broker 
into question.  The Foreign Ministry is clearly hoping to put 
straight any questions about Norway's foreign policy, and 
even took the extraordinary step of releasing to the press 
Foreign Minister Stoere's letters to Israeli FM Shalom and 
Secretary Rice.  However, much damage is already done and is 
 
SIPDIS 
probably irreversible.  For example, the press is carrying 
comments by Norwegian Middle-East "experts" who say that the 
Foreign Minister has gone too far in shutting Halvorsen down 
and is pursuing a policy that is "servile" to Israel and 
against international law. 
 
Comment 
- - - - 
 
5.  (C)  Intense pressure from PM Stoltenberg and FM Stoere, 
as well as Washington's tough message on Halvorsen's 
outrageous comments, led to Halvorsen's retraction.  A 
visibly frazzled Halvorsen went as far as one could hope, 
acknowledging that her support of a policy divergent from 
that of the government's was out of line.  She has also 
learned a painful lesson and has been called to heal by 
Stoltenberg.  She has not apologized to Israel, but has said 
that she will not in the future tout anything but the 
government's line. 
 
6.  (C)  As soon as this 3-party coalition was formed, with 
the Socialist Left being in government for the first time, 
everyone expected something like this incident.  Halvorsen 
needed reeling-in, and it is good that this painful episode 
has not focused on one of SV's many anti-US themes. 
Halvorsen and SV have been chastened and should be quieter 
for some time.  We hope that this will make for some smoother 
sailing in our relations with the center-left Norwegian 
government, at least for while. 
 
7.  (C)  Foreign Minister Stoere has tried hard to reassure 
the international community about the course of Norwegian 
foreign policy, but Halvorsen's antics have taken a high 
toll.  As the after-shocks of Halvorsen's comments continue 
to rumble, and Norwegian anti-Israeli sentiment continues to 
be manifest, it is hard to see how the parties in the region 
can view Norway as unbiased in the future.  Norway's 
reputation as an unbiased peace-monger certainly has taken a 
hit. 
Visit Oslo's Classified website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/oslo/index.cf m 
 
WEBSTER 
 
 
NNNN 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04