Norwegian premier rejects call for Israeli import boycott

By Reuters


Tevet 12, 5766

OSLO - Norway's prime minister rejected yesterday calls for a boycott of Israeli imports by a party in his cabinet that has highlighted policy strains in the center-left coalition.

"This government opposes a consumer boycott of Israel," Jens Stoltenberg told parliament, turning down opposition calls for a formal vote denouncing a consumer boycott launched last week by the Socialist Left Party.

Stoltenberg came to power in October at the head of a three-party coalition of his Labor Party, the Center Party, and the Socialist Left, which has not been in government before.

Norway hosted secret talks in 1993 that led to the now-stranded Oslo Accords, and the boycott call has raised government worries that Israel will no longer view Norway as being even-handed.

Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen, head of the Socialist Left Party, apologized last week after saying she favored the boycott, aimed at increasing pressure on Israel to allow an independent Palestinian state.

She said a boycott of Israeli oranges and other goods was not government policy, merely that of her party.

"It is quite normal that parties have policies that do not win through in the government platform," Stoltenberg said of fractured Norwegian politics, where his Labor Party is the largest, with 61 seats in the 169-member parliament.

A boycott of Israeli goods like oranges would be symbolic - Norway's imports totaled 8.22 million euros in 2005. Still, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere has written both to the United States and Israel to restate Oslo's policies.