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Post-election outlook for New Zealand’s relationship with Israel

Post Election outlook for New Zealand’s relationship with Israel

2017’s election campaign was colourful and at times dramatic. Perhaps as a consequence, very little attention was paid to foreign policy. While this is understandable, for Israel supporters, the government’s position on Israel was an important factor in their decision. Interestingly, the two politicians shown by IINZ’s survey to have held favourable views on Israel have done well, David Seymour and Winston Peters. In fact, Peters, the only M.P. to have pursued the issue of New Zealand’s sponsoring of UN Resolution 2334 in parliament, is now in the position of ‘king maker’.

From many conversations on social media and elsewhere, it is evident that a number Israel supporters who were long time National supporters, changed parties and voted for Winston Peters. While Bill English campaigned well and achieved a solid result for his party, many will be watching to see how he handles the issue of New Zealand’s relationship with Israel. Many felt it would have been prudent for English to have distanced himself from McCully’s UN resolution, rather than doubling down in support. Newsroom has highlighted English’s bumbling over this issue:

“If he confirms the fourth term, English also faces his own questions about his own ability to confront and deal with poor behaviour in his own cabinet. He let a few things slide, including: Murray McCully going rogue on Israel, Brownlee stuffing up his lines on Israel… …One trait of John Key he will need to adopt is the ability to sniff the public mood and then ruthlessly and quickly dump either the policy or the person creating the smell.”

Now that English has had time to settle into his role at the leader of the National Party, and with a strong election result under his belt, we would hope to see clearer leadership on Israel if he should be in a position to form a government and if Winston is agreeable to negotiations.

However, Winston may choose to align with Labour. The position toward Israel of some Labour members is known – David Parker, for example, has been outspoken against Israel. Labour’s leader, Jacinda Ardern, spent time in Israel while she was president of the International Union of Socialist Youth but has not yet made public comment about the issue. Israel supporters will hope she does not follow the lead of UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has endorsed Ardern as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

According to Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director Paul Moon:

Whichever party is put into power, the almost inevitable alliance with New Zealand First presents an opportunity for New Zealand to recalibrate its relations with Israel. Effectively, the government could draw a line under its disastrous sponsorship of UN Resolution 2334, and look to strengthen its ties with Israel. There are opportunities for trade, academic cooperation, technological partnerships, and the fostering of relationships in the arts that could be advanced under the next government, and the Israel Institute of New Zealand is hopeful that a new and exciting level of partnership with Israel is imminent.