B'nai B'rith New Zealand Vice-President Dr. Jim Salinger penned an op-ed in the New Zealand Herald on the renewed diplomatic ties between the Jewish state and New Zealand after six months of relative silence. Salinger takes a look at the fallout following New Zealand's vote for an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council in December 2016.
Scroll down to read the story or click below to read it on nzherald.co.nz.
As I watch from my current perch in Haifa, Israel, today's Jerusalem Post headlines read, "New Zealand, Israel Patch Up Ties", under a photograph of the New Zealand flag and the Beehive.
The report goes on to say, "New Zealand PM said he 'regrets' damage done to relations as a result of Wellington sponsoring UNSC 2334."
The resolution stated Israel's settlement activity constitutes a "flagrant violation" of international law and has "no legal validity".
It demanded Israel stop such activity and fulfil its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was the first UN Security Council resolution to pass regarding Israel and the Palestine territories since 2009.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that, following discreet diplomatic contacts, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Bill English spoke by phone a few days ago.
Bill English then wrote a letter saying that he regretted "the damage done to Israel-New Zealand relations as a result of New Zealand proposing Resolution 2334 at the Security Council".
Israel announced yesterday it was sending its ambassador back to New Zealand, ending a six month diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
New Zealand's action, by the then Foreign Minister Murray McCully at the Security Council in Geneva, was very unfortunate.
In my role as New Zealand vice-president of B'nai B'rith, I have attended the odd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva with B'nai B'rith International's Permanent Representative to the UNHCR, Klaus Netter.
B'nai B'rith is the world's oldest service organisation, established in 1843. Our mission is to make the world a safer, more tolerant and better place, as well as to support people in need after terrible natural disasters.
What I witnessed was amazing. The UNHCR is the United Nation's foremost political body devoted exclusively to human rights.
As with any political body, its member countries often allow politics to pollute voting, resulting in council actions that are often selective and partisan.
Like all UN bodies, it draws from the member states of the United Nations, and too many of them are serious human-rights abusers such as Venezuela.
In Venezuela leading opposition politicians have been arbitrarily arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and barred from running for office in legislative elections.
Police abuse, poor prison conditions, and impunity for abuses by security forces-including arbitrary arrests, beatings, and denial of basic due process rights for largely peaceful protesters in early 2014-remain serious problems.
UNSC 2334 was a one-sided anti-Israel resolution. In putting it up, we chose to partner with countries - Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela - that do not adhere to the same democratic principles as New Zealand.
The resolution failed to recognise that peace can only be negotiated by the parties involved and cannot be imposed.
UNSC 2334 did not give appropriate weight to the glorification of terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and the Palestinians' continual incitement to violence.
Israelis were stunned with the McCully move, as he had visited Israel only a few weeks before and made no mention if it.
Jerusalem believed McCully was the driving force behind the UNSC 2334, and it was widely expected that relations with Wellington would improve once he left office. And relations did, immediately after Brownlee took over on May 2.
Gerry Brownlee is to be congratulated on restoring relations with one of the few democratic secular nations in the Middle East.
The two countries have much to profit from the normally warm bilateral relations, sharing many innovative economic activities such as in agriculture and horticulture. New Zealand can also benefit from the high-tech know-how that Israel has to offer.
Every relationship is different, but most countries have disagreements and bust-ups from time to time.
Partner countries that stay together for the long haul usually figure out a way to make up and move on. I am glad that the normal friendly relationship between Israel and New Zealand has been restored.
• Dr Jim Salinger is New Zealand vice-president of B'nai B'rith.
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