STOCKHOLM - Sweden has officially recognised Palestine as an independent state, the first European Union (EU) member and Western country to do so.
Israel has reacted angrily. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman immediately recalled the Israeli ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman to Jerusalem.
An Israeli official was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying, it was absurd that the Swedish government, which has been in power for less than a month and had not yet warmed up their seats, was "trying to play in the international arena."
Israeli Foreign Minister Liberman was even less diplomatic, saying Stockholm needed to understand relations in the Middle East are more complicated than self-assembly furniture at IKEA. "It is unfortunate that the Swedish government chose to adopt a declarative measure that can cause much damage and bring no benefit. The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea's flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility," Liberman said. He also described the Swedish move as one that "strengthens radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance."
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced earlier this month that Sweden would recognise the state of Palestine.
A decree was issued on Thursday by the government to formally recognise Palestine, the first country in the EU to take that step.
"The purpose of Sweden's recognition is to contribute to a future in which Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security. We want to contribute to creating more hope and belief in the future among young Palestinians and Israelis who might otherwise run the risk of believing that there is no alternative to the current situation," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrm said Thursday.
A Swedish official said she hoped that other countries would take the same decision in order to move towards a political solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
Palestine is recognised as a state by over 100 countries.