Dear Minister of Communication Ayub Kara
Dear Former Member of Knesset Rabbi Michael Melchior
Dear Consul Orni and Irit Izaksson
Dear Excellencies and dear friends of Norway,
I am honored to welcome you all. You are Norway’s best friends in Israel.
On the 17th of May, Norwegians pay tribute to our Constitution from 1814.
The Constitution marked the beginning of a modern, sovereign and democratic Norway. After 400 years of Danish rule, Denmark lost Norway to Sweden. It took Norway another century to convince Sweden to grant us our freedom in 1905 – which Sweden did without any violence; without a single shot fired.
The rest is a nice history of close Nordic friendship, open trade, and growing prosperity. We are all on the top of any ranking of countries, where it is good to live.
We congratulate Israel for 70 years of independence.
You can be proud of what you have achieved. You show global leadership in economy, technology and innovation. You threaten the Nordics in rankings of good living conditions.
Already in 1947, Norway recognized the rights of the Jewish people to establish a nation-state in its ancestral homeland. Seated on the Security Council in 1950, Norway helped ensure a majority for admitting Israel as a full member of the UN. Coming July, we mark 68 years of excellent diplomatic relations.
I deeply appreciate our longstanding bilateral relations.
Our trade increases, and there is unrealized potential. Feeding Israel with fish is excellent, but we need more trade in technology and start-ups. Our Sovereign Fund is among Israel’s biggest public investors, with a bit less than 3 billion USD invested in over 75 companies and bonds. Our defense dialogue continues, and we have a solid cooperation in research within the Horizon 2020 program.
Your neighborhood is not like ours.
The last weeks made regional peace look like a distant dream. Israel, unfortunately, still lives by its sword.
Norway condemns use of violence and terror. It brings destruction and breeds hatred, where only dialogue and mutual understanding can bring hope and progress.
Norway cares about the desperate regional situation and recognizes the role that Israel must have in stabilizing it. The instability in the region also affects our calm and stability at home.
Over the last few years, Norway has tripled the assistance towards the humanitarian crises in the region – the worst we have had since World War II. Norway supports peacekeeping and regional stabilization efforts, financially and with personnel and troops. Together with the EU and its member states, the US and other allies, Norway engages both politically and diplomatically on the burning fronts of conflict in the region.
In 1947, Norway also recognized the rights of the Palestinian people to a nation-state living in peace and economic union with Israel.
These last weeks, this aim has looked like a distant dream. Norway remains committed, however, as two nation-states in historic Palestine is the only way to ensure the freedom and prosperity for the two peoples.
Norway is still proud of “Oslo”.
Norway will never give up our assistance to both peoples in realizing the only vision that can provide security and freedom, peace and prosperity, mutual respect and democracy – for both. In our understanding, the occupation that started in 1967 stands in the way also for Israel’s long-term security and for other domestic, regional and global interests.
Therefore, Norway is deeply committed to our chairing of the coordination between the parties and the donors to the Palestinian Authority. We promote economic cooperation between the PA and Israel. These days, we work hard with close allies, including Israel, to improve the totally unbearable situation in Gaza. We aim to cover urgent needs for water, electricity, jobs and movement.
Norway calls for, and will support, initiatives to resume meaningful political negotiations. We will need to mend the apparent Atlantic divide, however. History shows that only when the international community works for stability together and supports parties engaged in conflict resolution, peace can be advanced in this region.
Again, I thank you all for joining to celebrate Norway’s birth as a nation-state, as well as our shared history and values, and enduring friendship.
Let me also thank the staff who makes this evening and prepares food and drinks for us. I must also say that I am very, very proud of my staff at the Embassy of Norway. You are professional, dedicated and committed, and you demonstrate our deep care for Israel.