Swedish pension firm drops Israeli co. in protest

 

By MALIN RISING

STOCKHOLM

Sweden’s national pension funds have dropped investments in an Israeli company that makes surveillance equipment for the West Bank barrier.

Israel said Thursday that the decision by the Swedish AP funds, which manage assets of more than 800 billion kronor ($110 billion) in the state pension system, was “regrettable” but made no official complaint.

Norway’s main pension fund has similar ethical guidelines and also dropped Elbit Systems Ltd. last year, prompting the Israeli government to summon the Norwegian ambassador.

The relationship between Sweden and Israel has been strained recently. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called off a visit to Israel last year amid a diplomatic spat over a Swedish newspaper article that claimed Israeli soldiers harvested organs from dead Palestinians. Bildt also announced his support for the findings of a U.N.-appointed expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, which concluded that both sides committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 2008 Gaza war, in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including many civilians.

“The security fence was built in order to save lives and in fact save the lives of hundreds of Israelis,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Shachar Arieli told The Associated Press. “Without the fence, it was also impossible to launch the peace process again.”

The Swedish AP funds said the ethical council had discussed its concerns with Elbit Systems but that the dialogue had not “produced the intended results.”

Fund officials couldn’t say Thursday how big their investments in the company had been before the sell-off. Elbit declined to comment.

——

Associated Press writer Shira Rubin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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