2006-01-11 16:07:00
Embassy Oslo
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C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000044 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2016


Classified By: P/E Counselor Mike Hammer, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

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C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000044


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2016


Classified By: P/E Counselor Mike Hammer, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

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1. (C) Norway's bitterly divided center-right parties came
together on January 11 to table a Parliamentary proposition
that would have given a clear "no" to any boycott of Israel.
President of the Parliament Thorbjoern Jagland used the
privilege of his position to stop the motion being brought to
a vote in Parliament. Had he not done so, the government
would have embarrassed itself further by voting against the
anti-boycott motion. Political drama in Norway gets no
higher than this, and the recriminations will carry on for a
long time. The government's narrow escape, thanks to
Jagland, will bring it little comfort. The government was
jammed hard by the opposition and faced the prospect of
either displaying its disarray on the floor of Parliament or
voting down a motion that would support its stated "no Israel
boycott" policy.

2. (C) The sight of Norway's center-right party leaders
standing shoulder-to-shoulder is extremely rare; heretofore
the smaller center-right parties have sought to maximize
their distance from the populist right-wing Progress party.
The fact that Halvorsen's blunders have united the fractious
opposition creates yet more pain for Stoltenberg's government
that wants to bury this whole sorry affair. We should
welcome the fact that the opposition in Norway is drawing
together, even if the circumstances could be more auspicious.
End summary.

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Opposition rallies together against a boycott
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3. (U) On January 10, the leaders of Norway's four
opposition parties announced that they would table a motion
in Parliament calling upon the Government to state clearly
that a boycott of Israel is not and will not be Norwegian
policy. An unofficial Embassy translation of the opposition
parties' motion is given below at paragraph 9. Journalists
asked the four opposition leaders if they were against a
boycott of Israel, and in turn they all answered "yes." The
opposition leaders said that despite the clear statements by

FM Stoere and PM Stoltenberg that an Israel boycott is not
Norwegian government policy, the fact that Halvorsen's SV
party still supports a boycott creates continuing
uncertainty. By tabling a Parliamentary motion, the
opposition parties hoped to remove permanently any doubt
about Norwegian policy.

4. (U) The opposition's main points were: a boycott would
not bring the Middle East closer to a peace agreement; it
would hurt both Israel and the Palestinians economically; it
would disturb international efforts between the parties; it
would further destabilize a fragile internal political
situation in both nations; it would be a hostile act against
Israel, with which Norway has close and good relations; it
would be irreconcilable with a continued peace role in the
region for Norway; and it would damage Norway's interests
internationally. The opposition parties asked that
Parliament debate the motion as soon as possible (this week).

5. (U) Both Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister
Stoere faced unrelenting questions in Parliament's weekly
question time on January 11. Both stuck to the same line:
that Norway's foreign policy towards the Middle East has not
changed, and a boycott of Israel has never been Norwegian
government policy. Stoltenberg made it clear that the
government would not support the opposition's motion. The
opposition, Stoltenberg said, were seeking to keep the debate
alive for political purposes and were only creating more
uncertainty and confusion by focusing on an issue that
already had been managed and closed.

6. (U) The question of how to deal with opposition's motion
came before the Parliament's combined Presidency (composed of
six members, equally distributed between government and
opposition parties) on the afternoon of January 11. With the
members in the Presidency equally balanced on whether to
bring the motion to a vote in Parliament, Parliament
President (former Labor party PM and FM, and long time
foreign policy guru) Thorbjoern Jagland used the tie-break
privilege of his position and voted to shelve the motion.

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7. (C) The opposition parties jammed the government hard.
There is no way that the government could have united its MPs
to vote in favor of the anti-boycott motion. SV MPs would
have defied their leadership if they were told to support the
opposition motion; and, despite strong party discipline, many
left-wing Labor party backbenchers could have broken ranks.
The government faced only two options, both of which would
have caused severe embarrassment and pain. It either could
have voted against the opposition's anti-boycott motion, or
laid bare its internal divisions in Parliament. Stoltenberg
signaled clearly that he would have chosen the first option,
and the government would have voted against a proposal that
states a boycott of Israel is not Norwegian policy.
Jagland's action to shelve the motion may have saved the
government from embarrassment today, but the opposition is
furious and will continue to make trouble for Stoltenberg and

8. (C) While the circumstances that brought the opposition
together -- the whole Halvorsen/boycott saga -- is highly
regrettable, it proves that the gap between the Progress
party and the other parties of the center-right is
bridgeable. This is good. Progress is the largest
opposition party, and it is inconceivable that a center-right
government could be formed in the future without Progress.
The parties that made up the previous Bondevik government
just do not have enough support to govern again on their own.
Progress is also the U.S.'s best friend in Norway, and our
efforts over several years to cultivate close contacts have
paid off. Progress appreciates that we have taken them
seriously (when no one else did),and they have proven to be
solid friends. The drawing together of the Norwegian
center-right opposition parties should be seen a good thing,
over the long run, for the advancement of U.S. interests in

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Opposition motion
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9. (U) Begin unofficial Embassy translation of the
opposition motion:


I. The Parliament asks the Government to recognize that a
boycott of Israel would affect Israel and the Palestinians
economically, destroy Norway's close relationship with
Israel, affect international peace initiatives based on
international law and the Roadmap for Peace, and stand in the
way of future Norwegian contributions to peace.

II. The Parliament asks the Government to recognize that
Norwegian policy towards Israel must be built on close
cooperation, dialogue, and the will to contribute politically
to a peace solution with the Palestinians based on
international law and the Roadmap for Peace. A boycott is
not, and should not be, Norwegian policy towards Israel.

End unofficial Embassy translation

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