An opinion piece published in Ynetnews – the English-language website of newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth – contends that Iceland is hostile towards Israel, and that its foreign minister displays “egotism” with regards to how it relates to the country.
As many readers are aware, Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson has expressed his support for a Palestinian state during his visit to the region earlier this month. This has not gone over well with a number of Israelis, among them Manfred Gerstenfeld, the chairperson of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who wrote an opinion piece on the matter which criticises both him and the country as a whole.
The article begins by suggesting that because Iceland’s economy collapsed, it should have no business expressing opinions on Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, and contends that Israel’s sending commandos on board a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza – resulting in nine dead and dozens injured – was a defensive move.
Iceland’s government shows considerable arrogance toward Israel. Skarphedinsson represents a country that has caused huge financial damage abroad. Yet he believes that he should tell sovereign Israel how it should run its affairs. On his recent visit he requested that Israel unconditionally abandon its maritime blockade on Gaza. He also condemned Israel’s defensive actions during the first flotilla. Moreover, the Icelandic Parliament condemned Israel and some members suggested placing sanctions on the Jewish state or even breaking off relations with it.
The article then contends that Iceland is, as a whole, an anti-Semitic country, citing medieval history, the granting of asylum to Evald Mikson and Bobby Fischer, and the fact that Icelandic politicians have criticised Israel’s Palestinian policies. Gerstenfeld closes by speculating that Össur’s outspoken support of Palestine may be due to personal reasons, or because he is a leftist.
One may wonder what motivated the Foreign Minister of Iceland, with its small population and poor international record, to come to the Middle East and behave as he did. Is it just plain egotism, for which Skarphedinsson is well-known in Iceland? Is it because he represents a left-wing government? Or perhaps because Iceland endeavours to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council after its failed bid in the 2008 elections? For this it would need the many votes of Muslim countries.