SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Israel named its first envoy to New Zealand since its embassy was closed there in 2002.
Shemi Tzur, a former ambassador to Cyprus, Finland and Estonia, is expected to take up his post next year.
After the embassy in Wellington was closed as part of global cost-cutting measures, relations between Israel and New Zealand plunged into deep freeze after two alleged Mossad agents were caught and jailed for trying to illegally obtain a New Zealand passport in 2004.
New Zealand suspended high-level diplomatic relations for more than a year until Israel apologized in 2005.
Bilateral relations have since thawed, helped in part by the defeat of Helen Clark and her largely hostile Labor Party at the 2008 polls. She was succeeded by Conservative leader John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee from Austria who has family living in Israel.
Tzur, 64, was involved in the Middle East peace conference in Madrid in 1991. He is also a former diplomat in South Africa, Turkey, Australia, Fiji and Uzbekistan.
Since Ambassador Ruth Kahanov departed New Zealand in 2002, Israel’s ambassador to Australia, headquartered in Canberra, has served as non-resident ambassador to New Zealand.
Tzur’s appointment, announced last week, must be approved by the Kiwi government.