Norway’s foreign ministry wasn’t commenting on reports in an Israeli newspaper that the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sharply reprimanded Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide during her visit to Jerusalem earlier this week.
The newspaper Hayom reported that Netanyahu was upset by what he considers Norwegian meddling in the Israeli court system, through the government’s financial support to the Norwegian Refugee Council (Flyktninghjelpen). Netanyahu reportedly asked Søreide to stop financing NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that “attack the state of Israel.”
The Israeli Embassy in Oslo didn’t want to comment directly on the meeting between Søreide and Netanyahu that was closed to press coverage, but stated in an email to newspaper Aftenposten that Israel objects to efforts by organizations financed by the government that meddle in Israel’s internal affairs.
Aftenposten tied the Israelis’ latest complaints to a report from an Israeli organization that monitors NGOs’ work in the Middle East. It reportedly claims that the Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian organization, has instead shown itself to be political because of various local petitions and court cases against the Israeli government launched through its legal assistance program. The council is led by former Norwegian diplomat and UN envoy Jan Egeland, who was directly involved in efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s.
A Norwegian foreign ministry spokesman said the ministry “does not comment on this (Hayom’s) type of story with speculation around a closed meeting.” It thus remained unclear how Søreide responded to Netanyahu’s alleged scolding, but she had some gripes of her own.
Without mentioning Netanyahu’s reprimand, Søreide told news bureau NTB after the meeting that she wanted an explanation of how the Israeli’s could justify boarding a Norwegian vessel in international waters and arresting those on board who were bound for Gaza. She said she was promised a clarification. She also “expressed Norway’s standpoint that we can’t understand how Norwegian citizens taking part in foreign aid projects are denied entry into Israel and areas on the Palestinian side. We believe that practice is unwise.”