New Zealand is now embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Israel who has recalled its Ambassador from Wellington in protest at New Zealand’s role on the UN Security Council where it played a leading role in a historic Council vote on Israel.
The move is unprecedented in recent New Zealand history.
The resolution called for a stop to Israeli building of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says he has faced strong lobbying from Israel over its role.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Foreign Minister Murray McCully to advise him of the recall on Saturday morning.
“It is their decision to make,” McCully told POLITIK.
“It underlines the their opposition to the Security Council resolution but does not change the fact that ongoing settlements undermine a two-state solution as clearly stated by the UN Secretary-General.
“If the two-state solution is no longer credible, attention will turn to the two different standards of citizenship in one state that exists.”
That is a reference by McCully to what would likely be an apartheid-style solution in Israel where nearly half the population of Israel itself along with the occupied territories are Palestinian.
The vote that New Zealand supported was strongly opposed by US President-elect Trump and several leading Republican politicians.
It also remains to be seen whether the move complicates relations with the US once Trump assumes the Presidency.
But McCully told POLITIK that “we respect US foreign policy and expect reciprocity.”
However the vote was supported by Security Council permanent members, the UK, France, Russia and China and in a historic move, the US abstained.
Effectively Israel has been isolated with only Trump supporting it.
The resolution which was moved by New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal called for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.”
Reaction from Israel has been furious.
Israel will not abide by the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted on Friday demanding an end to settlement activity, a statement from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms,” the statement said.
In a statement, McCully made the point that the resolution acknowledges New Zealand’s long-standing position on the Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian land.
“The resolution sends a clear message to the parties to desist from actions that will further undermine the prospect of a two-state solution,” he said.
“It calls for Israeli settlement expansion to be halted and for incitement and acts of violence to cease.
“ These have been established New Zealand policy positions for many years. “
The is also an ironic reverse of a situation earlier in the year when the Obama administration is believed to have killed a New Zealand attempt to get a resolution at the Security Council trying to move towards a two-state solution to the Palestinian question.
McCully told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee last year that New Zealand would pursue this course.
However, he acknowledged that the Security Council vote was a second best.
“It is a sad fact that rather than making progress with talks between the parties, the most the Security Council is able to achieve is to attempt to stop the further undermining of the two-state solution,” he said.
But his immediate problem will be to deal with a hostile Israel — and potentially — a hostile Trump administration.
ISRAEL SUPPORTS BAINIMARAMA
In the short term New Zealand can expect Israel to up its wooing of Pacific Island states with generous aid packages.
In February Netanyahu is due to visit Fiji.
Announcing the trip last month last month he said it was part of an ongoing bid to bolster Israel’s standing in international forums such as the United Nations.
Mr Netanyahu said 15 countries would be at the Fiji meeting.
“Why am I going to Fiji? Because fifteen countries, fifteen islands that each one has a vote in the UN are coming to that meeting,” Netanyahu said.
His announcement came after Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Banimarama visited Israel.
Wellington sources have being expressing concern for some time over growing Israeli influence in the Pacific and in particular with the Bainimarama Government.
Traditionally, only the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, along with the US, always voted with Israel at the UN.
See POLITIK’S other stories on New Zealand and the Middle East peace process.
US may have stopped NZ resolution on Middle East