Margot Wallström

Margot Wallström

The bitter war of words between Israel and Sweden escalated on Sunday after Israeli officials said the Swedish foreign minister’s accusation that Israel was guilty of unlawfully killing Palestinians was “scandalous”.

Relations between Jerusalem and Stockholm worsened after Israel’s foreign ministry again took exception to Margot Wallstrom’s comments, but the Swedish premier defended her, saying her remarks had been blown out of all proportion.

“The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not, as alleged, say that extrajudicial executions occur in Israel,” said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “The situation in the Middle East is difficult enough without having to be encumbered by misunderstandings about anybody’s intentions.”

It echoes a similar spat three weeks ago, when Israel said Wallstrom was “appallingly impudent” by linking the attacks in Paris to the plight of Palestinians. Sweden’s ambassador to Israel was summoned to explain the remarks.

A spokeswoman for Wallstrom at the time said her comments about Palestinians and the Paris attacks had been made in different sections of the interview, but that the story had been presented to suggest a link.

Last year, Sweden’s centre-left government became the first European state to officially recognise a Palestinian state. In November, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Wallstrom “demonstrates genuine hostility”.