On February 15, 2017, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström announced that Sweden will be naming a “special envoy” to the Arab-Israeli conflict, tasked with working “full-time on the Israel-Palestine conflict,” responsible for establishing “contacts” in the region, and representing “Sweden in international talks.” According to Wallström, the sense that “hope can turn to despair” was repeated in her consultations “with almost 150 Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations” during a December 2016 trip to the region.
Prior to this, during preparation for the January 15, 2017 Paris Peace conference, Sweden, “initiated and led” a “civil society component” as one of three areas of focus to further a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Emphasizing Sweden’s close relationship with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a diplomat stated that prior to the Paris conference, “We spoke to NGOs, associations, bloggers and other actors. Everyone apart from politicians. The results of our survey are by no means scientific, but I believe they reflect well the situation at hand…” (emphasis added).
This alliance with favored NGOs does not occur in a vacuum – for many years, Sweden has provided large-scale funding to many such groups.
In 2015, Sweden budgeted approximately $16.1 million to NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many of these NGOs lead and take part in campaigns that are inconsistent with Sweden’s foreign policy goals of promoting peace and a two-state framework in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Some groups have even used antisemitic rhetoric and have apparent links to terror organizations.
In addition, Sweden provides over $5 million, to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (Secretariat) – a framework that supports NGOs that promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and “lawfare” campaigns against Israel.
Given this background, the new envoy announced by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström will be more of the same. As opposed to actually promoting peace, the envoy will become another vehicle for counterproductive funding for fringe NGOs.