'US said NZ over-reacted in 2004 Israeli spy incident'

WikiLeaks cable reveals US said New Zealand tried to improve credibility with Arabs by jailing Israelis suspected of working for Mossad.

December 22, 2010 02:16
2 minute read.

Wikileaks. (photo credit: Associated Press)

US diplomats criticized New Zealand's 2004 arrest of two Israeli citizens suspected of spying, saying the government tried to cozy up to Arab countries in order to increase exports to them, the Guardian reported on Tuesday, citing a recently released WikiLeaks cable.

The arrest and conviction of the two Israelis caused a major rift between New Zealand and Israel, with allegations that the two men and others involved in the incident were Mossad agents, reported the Guardian.


In a similar cable written two days later, the US further criticized New Zealand saying: "Its overly strong reaction to Israel over this issue suggests the GNZ sees this flap as an opportunity to bolster its credibility with the Arab community, and by doing so, perhaps, help NZ lamb and other products gain greater access to a larger and more lucrative market."

The two Israelis arrested in New Zealand were sentenced to six months in prison. Both men pleaded guilty to using the identity of a person suffering from cerebral palsy to apply for a New Zealand passport, but they denied working for Mossad.

The two men were released after serving two months behind bars and were then deported in October 2004, reported the Guardian.

Israel formally apologized and diplomatic relations were reinstated in 2005.

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