Israel, New Zealand restore diplomatic ties after brief spat

Netanyahu authorized Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand to return to Wellington after receiving an olive branch from Prime Minister Bill English.

Israel and New Zealand have restored diplomatic ties after a brief spat following New Zealand’s co-sponsorship of a UN Security Council Resolution in December that rejected the legitimacy of Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English extended the olive branch in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after several months of high-level bilateral discussions between senior diplomatic officials.

“I regret the damage done to relations between New Zealand and Israel as a result of New Zealand’s co-sponsorship of UNSC resolution 2334,” English wrote. “We welcome the return of Israel’s ambassador to Wellington.”

New Zealand’s backing of the resolution was considered a “declaration of war,” Netanyahu told then-Foreign Minster Murray McCully. As a result, Israel significantly downgraded its ties with New Zealand in February, replacing its ambassador to Wellington with a charges d’affaires.

Shortly after assuming his post as New Zealand’s foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee penned a letter of his own to Netanyahu, stressing his hope that ties with Israel would be fully restored.

A few days ago, Netanyahu instructed the director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Yuval Rotem, to inform New Zealand of Israel’s intentions to return its New Zealand ambassador, Itzhak Gerberg, to Wellington.

Israel also decided to return its ambassador to Senegal, which had also co-sponsored the UN Security Council resolution in December, after Netanyahu met with Senegal President Macky Sall last week at the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) summit.

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News