Protesters plan to disrupt Israeli embassy’s opening


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Pro-Palestinian protesters are mounting a campaign to disrupt the opening of the Israeli Embassy in New Zealand.

The organization No Israeli Embassy in Wellington was launched last week to oppose the opening this month of an Israeli mission in the capital for the first time since 2002.

Alastair Reith, a spokesperson for the organization, told local Australian media, “Wherever the embassy goes it’ll be a noisy neighborhood. We intend to have a frequent presence and make our objections known. We can’t make it as bad as Israel makes it for the people under military siege in Gaza, but everyone will know we will be laying protest siege to wherever they finally locate the embassy. How come we are inviting Israeli diplomats here at exactly the same time the British government is expelling them?"

The Israeli Embassy in Canberra, Australia, has tended to diplomatic affairs in New Zealand since Ruth Kahanov departed her post following budget cuts. Her successor, Shemi Tzur, 64, a former envoy to Finland, Cyprus and Estonia, is expected to arrive later this month.

A spokesman for the embassy said no date had been set yet for the opening.

In 2004, relations between Israel and New Zealand cooled after two alleged Mossad agents were caught and jailed for trying to illegally obtain a New Zealand passport. As a result, 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 Labor Party in 2008 elections. She was succeeded by Conservative leader John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee from Austria who has family living in Israel.

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