Israeli President Shimon Peres was met with protests on Monday, during his two-day visit in Norway. About 250 protesters from 26 organizations gathered at the Parliament Square in Oslo to express their support for Palestinians.
Kathrine Jensen, head of the Palestine Committee of Norway, had previously made a call for protests in an official statement published on the organization’s website. In the statement she is also criticizing the Norwegian government for failing to condemn the Israeli occupation. “We expect the government to offer a clear message that Israel must stop violating the international law. The violation of laws must be condemned, not rewarded with a gala dinner at the King’s table”, she stated.
Shimon Peres’s visit began officially on Monday with a full ceremonial reception by King Harald V and a royal dinner. He also met Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Olemic Thommessen, the president of the Norway’s parliament, and visited the Norwegian Jews in the synagogue in Oslo, on Sunday evening.
“No other alternative to peace”
“The hope for a peace agreement is not lost. Neither we, nor the Palestinians have other alternative but peace. It is better to live together in peace in two separate independent states. It is our agenda now”, the Norwegian broadcaster NRK quoted Peres as saying in his speech at the Oslo synagogue.
President Peres has visited Norway several times earlier, both as Israeli prime minister and foreign minister and this is his penultimate trip abroad as president before his term ends in the last week of July. Among the main points of discussion for his visit in Norway stands also the peace process throughout Middle East.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg will meet with Shimon Peres on Tuesday for a working meeting and after the two will conduct a press conference. Before returning to Israel in the late afternoon, Peres will also attend a festive gathering at the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
Shimon Peres, 90, who is the first Israeli head of state to visit Norway, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the Oslo Accords, for trying to bring Israel and the Palestinians together. He shared the prize with Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Norway played a crucial role in the process that led to the Oslo Accords, with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mediating the back channel negotiations between Yasser Arafat’s PLO and the government of Yitzhak Rabin.
However, Peres’ legacy is a mixed one. Now he widely acclaimed as the architect of the Oslo Accord of 1993, achieved while he was Foreign Minister and for which he deserves the credit for securing the agreement. However, while he was Defense Minister, in the 70’s, Peres supported the Jewish settlement project in the newly-conquered Palestinian territories, both overtly and covertly, settlements that are today the biggest obstacle to the peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Peres’ welcoming by the Norwegian government sparked more controversies as less than a week ago it refused to meet with the Dalai Lama. The Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile visited Norway last week (7-9 May) to commemorate the Nobel Peace Prize he received there 25 years ago, but the Norwegian government refused to meet with him. The decision was related to China’s unofficial partial trade embargo on Norwegian salmon and frozen trade talks after the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the peace prize in 2010. In 2010 Norway enjoyed a flourishing salmon trade with China, having a market share of 92%. Since then, its market share fell to 29%. China also considers the Dalai Lama an unrepentant separatist.
As an answer to the government refusal to meet him, the Dalai Lama said in a statement: “National interest is important, but I can assure you that the Dalai Lama is not a harmful person. My interest is to meet the public to promote human values, our need to see all 7 billion human beings as members of one family. In the face of major problems, we have to consider what benefits the whole world, not just this country or that. In the long run, we must bring principles and human values to bear in whatever we do, whether it involves politics, business, religion or education. If I had a political agenda, I might feel disappointed, but I don’t.”