TEL AVIV- Israel’s foreign minister slapped down Sweden’s decision to recognize the state of Palestine Thursday, saying the Middle East was “more complicated than self-assembly furniture at IKEA.” In a post on his Facebook page, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the move by Stockholm’s new left-leaning government was “a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements.”
Sweden is now the third Western European nation, after Malta and Cyprus, to recognize Palestine, reflecting growing international impatience with Israel's nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. "There is a territory, a people and government," Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters. British lawmakers earlier this month voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, although the U.K. government has no obligation to adopt the decision as policy.
Israel says Palestinians can gain independence only through peace negotiations, and that recognition of Palestine at the U.N. or by individual countries undermines the negotiating process. Palestinians say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn't serious about the peace negotiations.
- Paul Goldman and Alastair Jamieson
Reuters contributed to this report.