New Zealand foreign minister seeks to repair ties with Israel

The new foreign minister of New Zealand hopes to fully restore ties with Israel that were ruptured after the country sponsored a UN Security Council resolution that criticized all Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. 

New Zealand’s new foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee, expressed an immediate desire to restore relations between his country and Israel in a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, very shortly after receiving his ministerial warrant.

“I’ve sent a letter to Mr. Netanyahu yesterday, firstly congratulating them on their national [Independence] day but expressing a desire for the Israeli-New Zealand relationship to get back on track and to do that by recognizing that we’ve got synergies and innovation and agriculture and various other things like that,” Brownlee told the New Zealand Herald.

Israel downgraded its ties with New Zealand in December after the country sponsored a UN Security Council resolution that unanimously passed and criticized any Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria as well as in areas of Jerusalem that were won during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel not only recalled its ambassador to New Zealand, but replaced the envoy with a lower-level diplomat.

Before the vote, Netanyahu warned then-Foreign Minister of New Zealand Murray McCully against backing and pushing the resolution, going so far as to refer to such a move as a “declaration of war” against Israel.

“If you continue to promote this resolution, from our point of view it will be a declaration of war,” Netanyahu said at the time. “It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences. We’ll recall our ambassador to Jerusalem.”

According to Haaretz, Western diplomats said that Netanyahu’s Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, had called for a restoration in bilateral ties between Israel and New Zealand during the Israeli leader’s visit to Australia earlier this year. Netanyahu responded that New Zealand must make the first step.

Brownlee also said, according to the Herald, that he would like bilateral relations to be restored by October, when there will be commemorations in Israel for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba during World War I. As part of the British empire at the time, New Zealand took part in the battle.

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News