Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. (photo credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI)
"The Norwegian government does not see boycott of Israel as a contribution to dialogue, understanding and a peaceful development in the Middle East."
Israel’s relations with Norway, which improved significantly in 2013 with the election of a center-right government, are likely to improve even more following a reshuffling on Thursday, said Conrad Myrland, head of a pro-Israel group in the country.
The coalition government of Erna Solberg was expanded on Thursday with the addition of the small Christian-Democratic Party. Solberg was quoted as calling the formation of the government a “historic day,” since it marks the first time since 1985 that Norway would be ruled by a non-socialist majority government.
Reelected in 2017, Solberg has governed with minority governments since 2013, meaning she has needed the opposition parties to pass legislation. This will no longer be the case.
Though foreign policy was not the reason for bringing in the new party, Myrland – whose organization With Israel for Peace (Med Israel for Fred), the largest non-religious, pro-Israel organization in Norway – said the Christian Democrats now headed by a pro-Israel leader named Kjell Ingolf Ropstad have inserted some pro-Israel paragraphs in the new government guidelines.
The government guidelines call for Norway to have “a balanced attitude to the Middle East-conflict, actively support the goal of Israel and Palestine as two states within secure and international recognized borders, and support democratic development in the Middle East.”
Myrland said the paragraph is not new, and that something similar appeared in the previous government guidelines. What is new, he said, is a clause calling for the government to “lay the ground for strengthened research and development cooperation, trade, tourism and cultural exchange with Israel. The government does not see boycott of Israel as a contribution to dialogue, understanding and a peaceful development in the Middle East.”
Furthermore, the guidelines call for the government to “mark a clear critical stand against all form of antisemitism and actively work against economic contributions to terrorism, including reward of prisoners.”
In the chapter about international aid, the platform said the “government will not support organizations that encourage violence or promote hateful expressions, racism or antisemitism, specifically in the Palestinian areas.”
Myrland called these additions to the government guidelines a “further step in the right direction” toward Israel that began with Solberg’s election in 2013.
Norway has for years been a major donor to the Palestinians, and chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that is the main coordination mechanism for development assistance to them.