Israel’s ties with New Zealand are set to improve following the appointment of a foreign minister in Wellington critical of its sponsorship last December of an anti-settlement UN resolution that set back ties between the two countries.
The Labor Party’s Jacinda Ardern named the New Zealand First party’s head Winston Peters as deputy prime minister and foreign minister earlier this week. After a close election, it was Peter’s decision to join a coalition with Labor and the Greens that allowed Arden to form a government, instead of her predecessor Bill English.
Arden was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday.
Peters insisted on inserting in the coalition agreement a clause noting the “lack of process” that led to New Zealand’s sponsorship of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last year.
Peters has been critical that the decision to sponsor the resolution was not taken to the cabinet for its approval.
Politik NZ, a New Zealand news and analysis website, wrote that “the argument about the process has become a proxy for opposing the resolution altogether.
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Hence, Labor’s concession to Peters amounts to an indirect acknowledgment that the resolution was wrong.”
Peter’s deputy, Ron Mark, is the new defense minister.
The party’s platform on foreign affairs said that it opposed the previous government’s sponsorship of Security Council Resolution 2334.
New Zealand’s sponsorship of the resolution badly strained ties with Israel, which withdrew its ambassador in protest. The ambassador returned to New Zealand in June.
John McCormick, the chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Province Friends of Israel in New Zealand, wrote on J-Wire, a website of Jewish news for Australia and New Zealand, that 2017 is “the first time in years if not decades” that Israel has featured positively in a party’s platform.
“Certainly it’s the first coalition agreement it’s featured in positively,” he wrote. He pointed out that both Peters and Mark are long-standing members of the Parliament’s Friend of Israel Group.
Labor’s other coalition partner, the Greens, has parliamentarians who are definitely not members of that group, such as Marama Davidson, touted as possibly one of its next leaders, who took part in a women’s pro-Gaza flotilla last October.
English was originally slated to come to Israel next week to represent New Zealand in the centennial celebrations marking the 1917 Battle of Beersheba, but those plans were scuttled after he lost the election.
New Zealand will instead be represented by Governor- General Patsy Reddy.
In a related development, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to arrive on Saturday night to take part in the ceremonies next Tuesday in Beersheba. He will be joined by opposition head Bill Shorten, senior politicians, military officials, and representatives of the Jewish community.
Turnbull is arriving some eight months after Netanyahu paid the first-ever visit by an Israeli premier to Australia, a country that has traditionally been a very strong supporter of the Jewish state.
Calvary from both Australia and New Zealand took place in this pivotal Battle of Beersheba, a landmark battle that eventually led to an end to Ottoman rule of the country.