BERLIN – The new Norwegian government, which so far was considered one of the most hostile administrations facing Israel, is working towards bracing the ties between the two countries and enhancing mutual cooperation in an array of fields.
The conservative-progressive minority government, which was established some three months ago, included an article in its elections platform that states that the government will change its Middle East policy and implement a more balanced course of action. This is in stark opposition to previous leftist administrations, whose policy was clearly pro-Arab.
As part of the new policy, Norway's Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader Erna Solberg is expected to make a visit to Israel later this year. It will be the first visit of a Norwegian prime minister in over a decade. Solberg was also among the first world leaders to issue a letter of condolences following the passing of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
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"There are indications of a significant improvement in the ties between the two countries," said Israeli Ambassador to Oslo Naim Araidi. "The public and the authorities are beginning to understand that relations with Israeli do not necessarily have to be defined by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the two nations can develop normal ties in every field regardless."
Immediately following the establishment of the new government, the Israeli embassy to Norway initiated a preliminary meeting between Israeli and Norwegian companies, who discussed opportunities to promote business interactions between the well-developed Norwegian oil sector and Israel's developing natural gas industry. The acting finance minister, who is the leader of the Progressive Party, has expressed public support of a tighter cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy over the past.
Despite calls made in recent years in Norway – inter alia among local artists – to boycott Israel, the new Norwegian Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey said: "We don't see the boycott as an effective tool to promote positive change. The Norwegian government is interested in tighter cultural relations between the two countries. I am certain that a deeper mutual understanding is a prerequisite for achieving progress on political matters."
Last week, Widvey opened a conference for Norwegian television producers, which was dedicated to the success of the Israeli television industry in exporting drama series.
About 160 Norwegian televison producers and both private and state networks heard lectures by two of the Israeli industry senior personalities: Karni Ziv, director of the drama and comedy department at the Keshet franchise, and Reshef Levi, a producer and screenwriter. The sides discussed future cooperation opportunities.
"I am impressed by the achievements of the Israeli television and film industry, development of television series that were a national and international success, series that were exported and highly praised around the world – like 'In Treatment' and 'Homeland'," said the Norwegian culture minister.
"I believe that the success of Israeli productions could inspire the Norwegian industry. It shows that even a relatively small country can achieve great accomplishments. The key to success is a good story and quality directing."