Norway's new coalition government, which took office on October 16, is reportedly split on whether to lift the ban on selling arms to Israel, "Defense News" reports.
The coalition is headed by the right wing Conservative (Hoyre) party and the proposal to end the ban on selling arms to Israel comes from its junior partner the Progress party. The policy is part of its broad strategy of supporting Norway's defense industry by encouraging exports.
Hoyre is yet to announce its support of cancelling the embargo, however, the party's manifesto prior to the recent election called for taking new measures in efforts to expand defense exports but does not specifically relate to the question of weapons sales to Israel.
"Defense News" believes that the entry of the Progress Party into the coalition with influence government foreign policy and bring about an improvement of relations with Israel after a period of chilly relations between Jerusalem and Oslo during the previous Norwegian Socialist regime of Jens Stoltenberg who ruled from 2005 until last month. The embargo on arms sales to Israel was first imposed in 2002.
One of the important reasons for the thawing of relations is that the Friends of Israel organization in the Norwegian parliament is led by the Progress party. The organization is making intensive efforts to renew arms trading with Israel according to Norwegian MP Jorund Rytman, a representative for the Progressive party. The organization is also supported by Progressive party leader and Finance Minister Siv Jensen.
Rytman said, "I don't see any basic difference between exporting to the US and exporting to Israel. The subject will come up on the government's agenda in the next few months." He insists that rehabilitating the activities of Norway's defense industry must be undertaken hand in hand with developing warmer relations with Israel rooted in better understanding between Oslo and Jerusalem. "The first obstacle that we must confront is to amend the law for supervising weapons exports, which prohibits the sale of military equipment to Israel."
In any event Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende has said that his government is in no rush to take decisions on sensitive issues such as the embargo on arms sales to Israel. He said, "We don't see any immediate reason to change the current policy on weapons exports to Israel."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 7, 2013
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