In a debate at the Swedish parliament on Wednesday, Urban Ahlin, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that “there must be prosecutions for war crimes”.
Ahlin stressed that Israel and Hamas should both face charges: Israel for its use of white phosphorus and Hamas for employing civilians as human shields.
“It’s important that both the Swedish government and the EU place tough demands on the Israelis to prove that they want peace,” said Ahlin.
The prominent Social Democrat politician also called for an end to Gaza’s isolation, the removal of road blocks and for steps to be taken to prevent Israel’s controversial security barrier from crossing into the occupied territories.
Ahlin further implored the government to encourage the EU to temporarily suspend its extensive cooperation agreement with Israel.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt responed that Israel had a right to defend the southern parts of the country, but he also came down hard on Israel’s isolation of Gaza.
“The isolation policy is neither morally nor politically defensible, but Israel has a right to hit back,” said Bildt, added however that he thought Israel had gone too far with its retaliatory attack.
Bildt also said Gaza was reliant on 600-800 truckloads of goods per day, but Israel was only allowing at most 140 trucks to drive into the embattled city.
“We have to give the people of Gaza a dignified human life and a future,” said the minister.
Birgitta Ohlsson, a Liberal Party member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, described Israel’s situation as vulnerable and stressed the country’s duty to defend its citizens against rocket attacks. She also criticized Hamas for using civilians as human shields.
“Never forget that Hamas always chooses bombs before peace,” she said.
Ohlsson added that pressure should continue to be put on Hamas to accept Israel’s right to exist, refrain from violence and accept the terms of existing agreements.
Green Party member of parliament Max Andersson said he wondered why the Swedish government could not at least take a stance comparable to that of the Finns, who had condemned Israeli attacks and summoned the Israeli ambassador for an explanation.
Foreign Minister Bildt conceded that he may have used the word “condemnation” too sparingly in view of the fundamentality of human rights, but he also argued that the priority now was to push for peace.
“I don’t want Sweden to be the arbitrator from a distance,” he said.