Israel’s ambassador to Norway, who arrived in the country two years ago with a mission to improve relations between Israel and Norway, has reportedly been recalled after female employees at the Israeli Embassy and at his residence complained of “inappropriate behaviour.”
Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday afternoon that Israeli authorities were sent to Oslo to investigate complaints against the ambassador, 63-year-old Naim Araidi. They concluded, according to NRK, that the complaints were so strong against the ambassador that he was immediately asked to leave Norway and resign his post.
Araidi, who left Oslo on February 14, told NRK that the charges against him are untrue and that he traveled home because of health problems in his family. He is now back in Israel but the investigation of the charges is ongoing. It remains unclear whether he will face legal charges in court or simply a disciplinary action.
Officials at Norway’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the departure of the Israeli ambassador, who was on several occasions featured on both TV and in newspapers in Norway.
Araidi remained pictured on the embassy’s website Monday evening, where he wrote that he wanted to “build bridges between Israelis and Norwegians.” He also posted a blog on the website as late as February 5, in which he reflected on religious holidays. Araidi has been one of Israel’s few ambassadors who is not Jewish, nor is he a career diplomat. Instead he is a poet, a professor of literature and a Druze, a minority in Israel, Lebanon and Syria who speaks Arabic. When he arrived in Oslo, he was considered an “unconventional ambassador,” but one who seemed equipped to mend often strained relations between Israel and Norway.
Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reported that it had confirmed from several “secure sources” that Araidi was recalled because of alleged sexual harassment. A spokesman at the embassy declined to confirm or deny the reports, saying he was not in a position to do so at present.
The ambassador’s alleged recall was first reported in the large Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, but initially without naming him or the country where he was stationed. Blogger Richard Silverstein published his name during the weekend and Yedioth Ahronoth later reported that Araidi wanted to withdraw from Israel’s foreign service.
It’s highly unusual for Norwegian media to identify persons facing alleged charges, criminal or otherwise. Many outlets were picking up the Stavanger Aftenblad and NRK reports on Monday, however, and carrying photos of Araidi.