New Zealand prime minister says he did not apologize for UN settlements resolution


(JTA) — New Zealand’s prime minister said his government still supports a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel on settlement construction.

Prime Minister Bill English’s comments to the New Zealand Herald came one day after the two countries restored diplomatic ties and Israel agreed to order its ambassador to New Zealand to return to his post in Wellington.

In February, Israel permanently downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Zealand and Senegal, two of the co-sponsors of the anti-settlement resolution passed by the Security Council in December. The United States abstained on the measure.

Following monthlong discussions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with English several days ago, according to a statement by the Israeli government released Tuesday. According to the statement, English told Netanyahu that “I regret the damage done to relations between New Zealand and Israel as a result of New Zealand’s co-sponsorship of UNSC resolution 2334.”

English told reporters in New Zealand that he did not apologize for the resolution or the country’s sponsorship of it.

“The resolution expressed longstanding and international policy and we stand by those positions. What we do express regret about was the fact that it disrupted our relationship with Israel,” he said, according to the Herald.

“Whether we agree with a country or don’t disagree with them, we certainly prefer to have diplomatic connection and it’s good that Israel has seen fit to restore their post in New Zealand.”

The New Zealand Jewish Council welcomed the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel.

“Many members of New Zealand’s Jewish community and other supporters of Israel were very distressed by New Zealand’s sponsorship of the UNSC resolution, the detail of which denied the ancestral and ongoing Jewish connection to Jerusalem, contradicting earlier UN resolutions and consigning Israel to the indefensible 1949 Armistice Lines,” the council’s president, Stephen Goodman, told JTA.

“We are happy to put this behind us. New Zealand and Israel, two small liberal democracies, have much in common, and a special shared history. As we have seen with the recent and ongoing trade delegations to Israel, New Zealand can benefit greatly from a deep friendship with Israel, and we look forward to this prospering.”

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