Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday night slammed the Swedish government's intention to recognize the state of "Palestine," and the Foreign Ministry announced it will summon Sweden's ambassador to protest the move, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Sweden's recently elected prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said Friday during his inaugural address in parliament that his government will recognize "Palestine," a move that would make it the first major European country to take the step.
"The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law," Lofven said during his address, in comments diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said were meant to give his constituents what they wanted to hear.
"A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence.
Sweden will therefore recognize the State of Palestine" he said.
Liberman issued a statement saying that, rather than dealing with Israel and the Palestinians during his inaugural speech, it would have been better for the Swedish premier to focus on more urgent matters in the Middle East, such as the daily mass murders in Syria, Iraq, and other countries in the region.
Liberman said further that Lofven needs to understand that neither declarations nor moves by "outside sources" would replace direct negotiations between the sides and bring closer a solution that would be part of a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the Arab world. He said he is sorry that Lofven "rushed" to make declarations about a "Palestinian state" before making the effort to study the issue and to understand that the Palestinians have been the obstacle preventing an Israel-Palestinian agreement for the last 20 years.
Lofven is the head of a center- left government that has come to power following general elections in September.
If Israel had a tough time with the Swedish government under its previous government, which was center-right, Lofven's statement is an indication that the relationship will now likely be even more difficult.
The former Swedish government refused to recognize "Palestine," as the Palestinians did not control the territory they claimed for statehood.
The UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of "the sovereign State of Palestine" in 2012, but the European Union and most EU countries have yet to give official recognition.
Diplomatic sources said they are not fearful that Lofven would begin a snowball affect in Europe, as the leader of a rather precarious center-left government is unlikely to set the standard for the rest of Europe.
The Social Democrats and Greens hold a minority of seats in parliament and the incoming center-left government is likely to be one of Sweden's weakest for decades.
Within the EU, some countries, such as Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia recognize "Palestine," but they did so before joining the 28-member bloc.
If the center-left government fulfills its plans, Sweden would be the first country to recognize "Palestine" while being a member of the European Union.
The EU's stated position is that an independent Palestinian state should only emerge through a negotiated process.
The PLO on Saturday welcomed Sweden's announcement.
"The Swedish announcement is in fact a sign of a genuine commitment to justice and the requirements for peace, including the two-state solution on the 1967 boundaries," said PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi.
"We hope that other countries in Europe will follow Sweden's lead. Those who claim to support the two-state solution must realize that in order to reach it, what's missing is a sovereign Palestinian state," she said.
According to the PLO, 138 countries recognize "Palestine" as a state, including Brazil, South Africa, Chile, Russia, the Holy See, Argentina, India, and China.
But it has failed to gain major recognition in the West, with the European Union and the US preferring the conflict resolved through negotiation.
"Conditioning recognition of the 'State of Palestine' on the outcome of negotiations with Israel is equivalent to making our right to self-determination an Israeli prerogative. This fails to address the very basis of the values upon which the United Nations was founded, including its responsibility to protect and act accordingly," Ashrawi said.