Israel, New Zealand patch up ties

New Zealand PM said he 'regrets' damage done to relations as a result Of Wellington sponsoring UNSC 2334.

June 13, 2017 17:15
2 minute read.
New Zealand flag and Parliament buildings

The current New Zealand flag flies on Parliament buildings in Wellington's Central Cusiness District on March 24, 2016.. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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Israel announced on Tuesday that it was sending its ambassador back to New Zealand, ending a six month diplomatic crisis between the two countries sparked by New Zealand's co-sponsorship of anti-settlement UN Security Council Resolution 2334 in December.

New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution along with Senegal, another country with whom Israel has diplomatic relations, and two countries with which there are no diplomatic ties: Malaysia and Venezuela. Then president Barack Obama enabled the resolution to pass by abstaining on the measure, rather than using the US Security Council veto. Israel decided to send back its envoy to Senegal last week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Senegal's President Macky Sall in Liberia. It was widely expected that mending the relations with New Zealand would quickly follow.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that following discreet diplomatic contacts, Netanyahu and New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English spoke by phone a few days ago.

As a result of that conversation, according to the PMO, English wrote a letter saying that he regretted “the damage done to Israel-New Zealand relations as a result of New Zealand proposing Resolution 2334 at the Security Council.”

Following the letter and the phone conversation, Netanyahu directed the Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem, who was actively involved in efforts to restore the ties along with Mark Sofer, the Foreign Minister's Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific, to inform Wellington that Israel has decided to “end the crisis” and send Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg back to the country.

Efforts to restore ties between the two countries started in earnest last month, when New Zealand's new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee wrote a letter to Netanyahu on the occasion of Independence Day trying to smooth over the difficulties.

"Our goal is to get the relationship between New Zealand and Israel back on track," he said in a statement about that letter. "I'm hopeful this will provide a positive platform to re-establish communication between officials from our respective foreign affairs ministries." A senior diplomat told The Jerusalem Post earlier this year that Jerusalem was stunned by New Zealand’s sponsorship of the resolution because the country’s foreign minister at the time, Murray McCully, was in Israel just weeks before the vote, met with Netanyahu for 90-minutes, and did not mention the likelihood of any such an initiative.

Jerusalem believed that McCully was the driving force behind the move, and it was widely expected that relations with Wellington would improve once he left office. Brownlee took over from him on May 2.

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