Norway has expressed its concern over the unequal treatment of its citizens with a Palestinian background by Israel, and has vowed to monitor the outcome of a new trial scheme that grants visa-free travel to Palestinian Americans.
The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt, said that Norway expects Israel to respect the agreement on mutual visa freedom that the two countries have had since 1966, and to treat all Norwegian citizens equally, regardless of their origin.
Huitfeldt made these remarks in response to a question from Ingrid Fiskaa, an activist and politician for the Socialist Left Party, who asked whether Norway would seek a similar arrangement to that of the US, which recently reached an agreement with Israel on a trial of visa-free travel for US citizens with Palestinian backgrounds.
The trial scheme, which is set to last six weeks, allows American Palestinians to travel easily and without a visa to both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, something that has been difficult for them in the past due to Israel’s strict entry policies.
Huitfeldt called the challenges that Norwegian Palestinians face when visiting Israel and Palestine “unacceptable”, and said that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs addresses the issue regularly in dialogue with the Israeli authorities. She also said that the embassy in Tel Aviv assists Norwegian citizens when entering Israel on a regular basis.
However, she added that if it turns out that American Palestinians receive better treatment than Norwegian Palestinians under the trial scheme, Norway will raise the issue with Israel and with the EU and other closely related countries.
The US-Israeli agreement on visa-free travel for Palestinian Americans comes after decades of negotiations between the two allies, which had been stalled by the US’s demand for equal treatment for all its citizens. The agreement is seen as a step towards securing visa-free entry for Israeli citizens to the US, which is one of Israel’s long-standing goals.