US embassy cable - 06OSLO44

NORWAY'S OPPOSITION UNITES ON PRO-ISRAEL RESOLUTION

Identifier: 06OSLO44
Wikileaks: View 06OSLO44 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Oslo
Created: 2006-01-11 16:07:00
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 000044 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2016 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ETRD, IS, NO 
SUBJECT: NORWAY'S OPPOSITION UNITES ON PRO-ISRAEL RESOLUTION 
 
REF: OSLO 32 
 
Classified By: P/E Counselor Mike Hammer, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
- - - - 
Summary 
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1.  (C) Norway's bitterly divided center-right parties came 
together on January 11 to table a Parliamentary proposition 
that would have given a clear "no" to any boycott of Israel. 
President of the Parliament Thorbjoern Jagland used the 
privilege of his position to stop the motion being brought to 
a vote in Parliament.  Had he not done so, the government 
would have embarrassed itself further by voting against the 
anti-boycott motion.  Political drama in Norway gets no 
higher than this, and the recriminations will carry on for a 
long time.  The government's narrow escape, thanks to 
Jagland, will bring it little comfort.  The government was 
jammed hard by the opposition and faced the prospect of 
either displaying its disarray on the floor of Parliament or 
voting down a motion that would support its stated "no Israel 
boycott" policy. 
 
2.  (C) The sight of Norway's center-right party leaders 
standing shoulder-to-shoulder is extremely rare; heretofore 
the smaller center-right parties have sought to maximize 
their distance from the populist right-wing Progress party. 
The fact that Halvorsen's blunders have united the fractious 
opposition creates yet more pain for Stoltenberg's government 
that wants to bury this whole sorry affair.  We should 
welcome the fact that the opposition in Norway is drawing 
together, even if the circumstances could be more auspicious. 
End summary. 
 
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Opposition rallies together against a boycott 
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3.  (U) On January 10, the leaders of Norway's four 
opposition parties announced that they would table a motion 
in Parliament calling upon the Government to state clearly 
that a boycott of Israel is not and will not be Norwegian 
policy.  An unofficial Embassy translation of the opposition 
parties' motion is given below at paragraph 9.  Journalists 
asked the four opposition leaders if they were against a 
boycott of Israel, and in turn they all answered "yes."  The 
opposition leaders said that despite the clear statements by 
FM Stoere and PM Stoltenberg that an Israel boycott is not 
Norwegian government policy, the fact that Halvorsen's SV 
party still supports a boycott creates continuing 
uncertainty.  By tabling a Parliamentary motion, the 
opposition parties hoped to remove permanently any doubt 
about Norwegian policy. 
 
4.  (U) The opposition's main points were: a boycott would 
not bring the Middle East closer to a peace agreement; it 
would hurt both Israel and the Palestinians economically; it 
would disturb international efforts between the parties; it 
would further destabilize a fragile internal political 
situation in both nations; it would be a hostile act against 
Israel, with which Norway has close and good relations; it 
would be irreconcilable with a continued peace role in the 
region for Norway; and it would damage Norway's interests 
internationally.  The opposition parties asked that 
Parliament debate the motion as soon as possible (this week). 
 
 
5.  (U) Both Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister 
Stoere faced unrelenting questions in Parliament's weekly 
question time on January 11.  Both stuck to the same line: 
that Norway's foreign policy towards the Middle East has not 
changed, and a boycott of Israel has never been Norwegian 
government policy.  Stoltenberg made it clear that the 
government would not support the opposition's motion.  The 
opposition, Stoltenberg said, were seeking to keep the debate 
alive for political purposes and were only creating more 
uncertainty and confusion by focusing on an issue that 
already had been managed and closed. 
 
6.  (U) The question of how to deal with opposition's motion 
came before the Parliament's combined Presidency (composed of 
six members, equally distributed between government and 
opposition parties) on the afternoon of January 11.  With the 
members in the Presidency equally balanced on whether to 
bring the motion to a vote in Parliament, Parliament 
President (former Labor party PM and FM, and long time 
foreign policy guru) Thorbjoern Jagland used the tie-break 
privilege of his position and voted to shelve the motion. 
 
- - - - 
Comment 
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7.  (C) The opposition parties jammed the government hard. 
There is no way that the government could have united its MPs 
to vote in favor of the anti-boycott motion.  SV MPs would 
have defied their leadership if they were told to support the 
opposition motion; and, despite strong party discipline, many 
left-wing Labor party backbenchers could have broken ranks. 
The government faced only two options, both of which would 
have caused severe embarrassment and pain.  It either could 
have voted against the opposition's anti-boycott motion, or 
laid bare its internal divisions in Parliament.  Stoltenberg 
signaled clearly that he would have chosen the first option, 
and the government would have voted against a proposal that 
states a boycott of Israel is not Norwegian policy. 
Jagland's action to shelve the motion may have saved the 
government from embarrassment today, but the opposition is 
furious and will continue to make trouble for Stoltenberg and 
Co. 
 
8.  (C) While the circumstances that brought the opposition 
together -- the whole Halvorsen/boycott saga -- is highly 
regrettable, it proves that the gap between the Progress 
party and the other parties of the center-right is 
bridgeable.  This is good.  Progress is the largest 
opposition party, and it is inconceivable that a center-right 
government could be formed in the future without Progress. 
The parties that made up the previous Bondevik government 
just do not have enough support to govern again on their own. 
 Progress is also the U.S.'s best friend in Norway, and our 
efforts over several years to cultivate close contacts have 
paid off.  Progress appreciates that we have taken them 
seriously (when no one else did), and they have proven to be 
solid friends.  The drawing together of the Norwegian 
center-right opposition parties should be seen a good thing, 
over the long run, for the advancement of U.S. interests in 
Norway. 
 
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Opposition motion 
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9.  (U) Begin unofficial Embassy translation of the 
opposition motion: 
 
proposal: 
 
I.  The Parliament asks the Government to recognize that a 
boycott of Israel would affect Israel and the Palestinians 
economically, destroy Norway's close relationship with 
Israel, affect international peace initiatives based on 
international law and the Roadmap for Peace, and stand in the 
way of future Norwegian contributions to peace. 
 
II.  The Parliament asks the Government to recognize that 
Norwegian policy towards Israel must be built on close 
cooperation, dialogue, and the will to contribute politically 
to a peace solution with the Palestinians based on 
international law and the Roadmap for Peace.  A boycott is 
not, and should not be, Norwegian policy towards Israel. 
 
End unofficial Embassy translation 
 
 
Visit Oslo's Classified website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/oslo/index.cf m 
 
WHITNEY 
 
 
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