ShalomKiwi: Just exactly what does New Zealand see as its relationship with Israel?

via ShalomKiwi (note the flags)

Both Prime Minister Bill English and new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee have said they want to repair the relationship with Israel in the wake of New Zealand co-sponsoring anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334. However, they seem to disagree on what that relationship might look like and how to go about it.

Brownlee, in his first days as Foreign Minister, called Resolution 2334 “premature” and said that New Zealand should not “pronounce” how either party involved in Middle Eastern policy should behave, beyond condemning terrorism. It was clearly a priority for him to start getting the relationship with Israel back on track without further delay.

Brownlee’s statements could be seen as recognition that New Zealand was out of step with liberal Western values and other democracies and a genuine effort to return to the longstanding, more balanced, foreign policy of supporting a two-state solution based on negotiations between the two parties and condemning terror.

They were a breath of fresh air to those of us completely bewildered by a New Zealand government back stabbing a democracy and backing despots, terrorists and assorted tyrants.  

Perhaps, given the praise heaped on McCully by Arab nations for his efforts in securing trade, the more recent actions of New Zealand are an example of former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s observation that “our foreign policy is trade”. There is certainly little morality in chastising the only democracy in the Middle East while ignoring the transgressions of others.

There was an agreement signed between Israel and New Zealand in March, 2016, to encourage collaboration between the countries’ film industries. One month before New Zealand co-sponsored the biased anti-Israel resolution it was reported that a bilateral R&D innovation deal was close to being signed between the governments. New Zealand seems keen to utilise Israeli technology and learn from its innovation success while, at the same time, undermining Israel in the political arena.

So, what does this mean? It is hard to know, given the mixed messages coming from a government whose foreign minister sponsors a UN resolution that represents a major policy change without consulting cabinet, and whose successor then tries to make amends but is chastised by the Prime Minister. It is a case of taking one step forward, two steps back.

Brownlee offered some hope that New Zealand was working to rectify the mistake of co-sponsoring the Palestinian-Egyptian drafted resolution, but now all we have is a reaffirmation of the resolution, amid some amorphous avowals of friendship. There is no indication that the New Zealand government will address any questions about the substance of the resolution or express any remorse. Can our government have it both ways?

It looks like the New Zealand government is more intent on cosying up with Saudi Arabia, not renowned as a bastion of human rights and liberal values, and less with Australia, with whom New Zealand’s relationship is increasingly fragile. That might be good for sheep sales in the short term but one can only speculate about the longer-term impact of aligning with non-democratic nations.

There will also be short-term repercussions for National.  I will refuse to vote for them until they once again are true to their own democratic values.



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