SYDNEY – Israel is waiting for an explanation from New Zealand regarding why it surprised Jerusalem and sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2334 before there can be any talk of repairing the damaged ties between the two countries, a senior diplomatic official accompanying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post.The official said Israel was stunned by New Zealand’s sponsorship of December’s anti-settlement resolution, especially because New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully was in Israel just weeks before and did not mention the likelihood of such an initiative. “The foreign minister met for 90 minutes with the prime minister [Netanyahu] and didn’t say a word. Is this how friends act?” the official said.
New Zealand was one of four countries, along with Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia, that sponsored the resolution after Egypt withdrew sponsorship in the waning days of the Obama administration.Israel has no diplomatic ties with Malaysia and Venezuela, and recalled its ambassador to New Zealand and Senegal in protest.The ambassadors have not been sent back, and the official gave no indication this would happen anytime soon.Fourteen of the 15 countries on the Security Council supported the resolution – only the US abstained, though it allowed it to pass by not casting its veto – but the official explained Israel’s particular anger at New Zealand and Senegal by saying there was a substantive difference between sponsoring a resolution and voting for it.Jerusalem believes McCully was the driving force behind the move, and that relations with Wellington will likely improve when he leaves office. New Zealand is scheduled to go to elections in September, and McCully has stated that he will be leaving politics.New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English was quoted last week as saying he spoke about the resolution some with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when they met in Queenstown earlier this month. Turnbull blasted the UN resolution in an op-ed he penned that ran in The Australian newspaper on Wednesday, the day Netanyahu arrived in Australia.“We had some discussion about it. New Zealand was involved with sponsoring the resolution, I think the Australian government probably disagrees with that,” England was quoted as saying on a New Zealand news site called Stuff.“But we want a constructive relationship with Israel, and we intend to work on that relationship. We stand by the resolution, but we also respect the right of Israel to have a strong view, to protect itself and to articulate its views,” English said.He added that Turnbull raised his displeasure during their meeting.While acknowledging that there has not been any diplomatic communication between Israel and New Zealand in recent weeks, English said he expected communication would eventually resume.“We understand the extent to which the resolution upset Israel – they had quite strong views about it – and we’ll be communicating with them about our focus on a positive relationship.”According to the web site, English said there was “no indication” ambassadorial links would be reinstated in the near future, but he did not expect any further diplomatic fallout.English took over as prime minister in early December from John Key, who resigned, less than two weeks before New Zealand sponsored the resolution.
UN Security Council passes resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building