From: Aftenposten and Aftenposten (2)
Date: 13.2.2009
1192101 2/13/2009  14:48 09OSLO115
Embassy Oslo CONFIDENTIAL 06OSLO1047 | 09OSLO90

E.O. 12958:
DECL: 02/04/2019
REF: A. OSLO 90 B. 06 OSLO 1047
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin M. Johnson
for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (C)
Summary: Norway aspires to be a leader in Middle East peace
negotiations and could be a genuine asset in bringing peace to
the region. Norway´s diplomatic principles, focus on dialogue,
and mediation history have helped raise Norway´s profile as a
peacemaker. Its tense relationship with Israel and
anti-Semitism in Norway, as well as its approach to Hamas and
Hamas positions, could constrain the effectiveness of Norway´s
desired high-profile mediator role. Part II of this cable
series explores the growth of anti-Semitism in Norway and Part
III analyses Norway´s Foreign Minister´s critical role in
elevating Norway on the world stage. End Summary.

Norwegian Diplomacy: Strengths and Desire for a Big Role

2. (C)
Shaped by FM Stoere, Norwegian foreign policy prioritizes
peace promotion. Stoere is a skilled foreign minister, drawing
on national traditions of international engagement, and adding
his own focus on humanitarian aid and peace promotion to
create an appealing portrayal of Norway as a world leader in
peacemaking. Stoere dearly desires a central role in shaping
Middle East peace and believes he has the ability to deliver.
Norway brings clear strengths to the table. Stoere has been
careful to maintain constant ties with Hamas (although no
longer on the political level), steady and significant support
for the Palestinian Authority and continued regular ties to
Israel. Norway has a global reputation for expertise in peace
negotiations in Guatemala, Tibet, the Philippines, and Sri
Lanka among others, although their efforts have floundered
lately. Norway also willing to spend substantial money in the
promotion of peace. Norway´s non-EU membership can also at
times be helpful. (Practically, Norway follows the vast
majority of EU positions but has diverged, most notably in
holding talks with the Tamil Tigers and Hamas, EU designated
terrorist groups.)

Mediation Expertise 

3. (C)
Norwegian society values dialogue above all. Talk, even
without any expectation of results, is seen as valuable.
Anyone who draws a line and refuses to talk to an opposing
party is seen as a radical unilateralist. Conversely,
Norwegians are extremely opposed to the use of military force
to achieve goals, no matter how laudable.

4. (C)
Compounding this aversion to force, Norwegians do not
generally see any threats. For example, they do not see a
danger from terrorism. (This attitude prevails in the MFA and
other elites, despite FM Stoere´s hotel being attacked by
suicide bombers in Kabul.) This societal attitude was
demonstrated by Norway´s first terrorist case. Despite
shooting at Oslo´s synagogue, planning to behead the Israeli
ambassador and to attack the Israeli and U.S. embassies, the
accused was convicted only of grave vandalism (although his
strict sentence showed some understanding of the severity of
the charges).

5. (C)
Finally, Norway has substantial funds to back any mediating
role it chooses to play. Rich with energy funds, it has for
years been a leading donor to the Palestinian authority, most
recently chairing the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. Historically,
it has been willing to commit to the long-term, funding
projects to promote peace in Sri Lanka for example for over 27

6. (C)
Norway´s desire to make a difference combined with the
willingness to expend time and money has made it a mediator in
conflicts as far a field as Sri Lanka, Colombia, Haiti, and
Sudan. It has elevated peace and reconciliation studies in its
universities and reorganized its Foreign Ministry to showcase
its expertise in this area. It revels in its self-described
role as the "moral superpower" and points to the Oslo Peace
Accords as a defining national moment.

Norway´s History with its Jewish Community and Israel

7. (C)
In the Middle East, however, its history may constrain the
role it can play. Norway´s Jewish community has always been
very small and based in the country´s biggest cities, Oslo and
Trondheim. Challenges confronted the community early on. The
birth of modern Norway was its 1814 constitution, which
included a clause excluding Jews (later removed in 1851). In
German-occupied Norway, Norwegian police cooperated with the
Germans, rounding up almost all of the Norwegian Jewish
population, most of which were sent to concentration camps.

8. (C)
Post-war Norway cultivated close ties with Israel and much
political support existed for Israel. The Norwegian Labor
Party (long the dominant party in Norway) has historically had
close ties to Israel´s labor party and Golda Meir visited Oslo
and reportedly had a friendly personal relationship with
Norwegian PM Gerhardsen. This resulted in Norway secretly
providing heavy water to the fledgling Israeli nuclear

9. (C)
The 1990s Oslo Process thrust Norway into Middle East politics
for the first time and seemed to herald peace in the Middle
East as well as a new peacemaker role for Norway. As the Oslo
Accords crumbled, ties between Norway and Israel weakened. The
Lebanon wars had a major impact, with approximately 20,000
Norwegians serving in UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon from
1978 to 1998. These soldiers came home with sympathetic
reports about Palestinian refugees and negative impressions of
Israelis. Israeli settlements and walls in the West Bank, and
invasions of Lebanon and Gaza contributed to Norwegians´
increasingly negative view of Israel.

10. (C)
This shift was so dramatic that a 2006 cartoon in a major
newspaper depicted the PM of Israel as a concentration camp
guard. During the 2006 war in Lebanon prominent author Jostein
Gaarder made a statement saying "I refuse to recognize the
state of Israel" and characterized Judaism as "an archaic
national and warlike religion." (See septel and ref B for a
detailed discussion of anti-Semitism in Norway.) By 2007, FM
Stoere decided to recognize the Palestinian Unity Government,
which included Hamas Ministers. Hamas´ vow to destroy Israel
was ignored or characterized as only rhetoric by the
Norwegians. Norway became the leading dissenter to
international norms (only joined by Switzerland), willing to
overlook Hamas´ stated aims in pursuit of dialogue at all
costs. At this point, some Israeli officials began to
characterize Norway as the most anti-Israel state in Europe.
(Note: Although the GON would deny it, there are clear signs
that contacts with Hamas go beyond a tactical desire for
dialogue to a level of sympathy for Hamas positions. The FM
once told DCM for example that one could not expect Hamas to
recognize Israel without knowing which borders Israel will
have. While the FM expresses some sympathy for Hamas´
positions only in unguarded moments, other prominent
Norwegians go further. End Note.)

11. (C)
Norway´s growing minority population also plays a role in
hardening public attitude toward Israel. The primary minority
groups in Norway (25% of Oslo´s population) are Muslim and
stem from Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. They are
interested in Middle East politics and not surprisingly very
critical of Israel. (See reftel A.) "Traditional" Norwegians
are independently quite critical of Israel as discussed above,
but it is likely that this viewpoint will be re-enforced by
the growing minority groups in Norway.

Gaza´s Impact

12. (C)
The recent Gaza war further hardened anti-Israel attitudes in
Norway´s public and elite opinion, with the notable exceptions
of the Progress Party (about 25% of the vote) and the small
Christian Democratic Party. However the size of recent
pro-Israel (500) and anti-Israel demonstrations (over 10,000)
illustrate the prevailing sentiments. (See reftel A.)

13. (C) 
Since the Gaza war, the question of whether anti-Semitism is
on the increase became the subject of an intense public
debate. Much of the debate centers on defining when comments
by public figures are or are not anti-Semitic. Press coverage
and public opinion of the Gaza war was overwhelmingly, and at
times vehemently, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian (viewing
Israeli tactics as brutal and Palestinians as innocent
victims). Therefore the question of anti-Semitism has often
been phrased in terms of when criticism of Israel crosses the
line into anti-Semitism. (See septel for a detailed discussion
of the strong comments that have been made by leading
Norwegian politicians questioning the ability of Jewish
members of the Obama government to give unbiased advice and
outlining the sense of threat felt by the Norwegian Jewish

14. (C)
On the official level, Hamas´ rocket attacks against Israel
received criticisms, but the clear focus of Norwegian
diplomacy encouraged Israel to be restrained and to maintain
dialogue. While FM Stoere has been careful to criticize both
parties, Norway clearly places most of the blame for the
conflict on Israel´s policies.

Israel´s Reaction

15. (C)
The Israel Government has chosen, according to an Embassy
official, to take a very low key approach to Norway´s negative
views towards Israel. They see no point in openly pressing the
government. With GON Ministers and Vice Ministers having a
track record of meeting with Hamas, calling for boycotts of
Israel, and showing up at violent anti-Israeli riots, the
Israel Embassy holds out very little hope that the current GON
can ever act moderately towards Israel. That said, they
appreciate that the GON MFA is disciplining one of its own for
anti-Semitic emails and that an initial meeting between FM
Stoere and the Israeli Ambassador was very positive. They hope
that small steps suchQs an R&D agreement may bring some
slight warming of relations.

16. (C)
However, the Israeli Embassy official noted that while his
view of the GON may be negative, the view of Norway in the GOI
is even less positive, and the view of the Israeli public
which sees only negative items about Norway in the media is
even less. Therefore, while Israel can tolerate Norway being
the Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Palestine
(ADHL), the idea of any greater role for Norway in Middle East
talks is unpalatable.


17. (C)
Norway, and particularly their charismatic Foreign Minister,
has a strong interest in playing a peacemaker role. With money
to spend and open channels to all parties in the conflict,
they bring important assets to this role. However, Norway´s
attitudes towards Israel and Hamas also constrain Norwegian
diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. Norwegian public and
elite opposition to most of Israel´s actions and their view
that Israel does not value dialogue is widely reported. A
level of Norwegian sympathy for some Hamas´ positions, hidden
behind its broad policy of dialogue with all, should be kept
in mind as we engage with Norway on U.S. Middle East
priorities. End comment.