A delegation of Kiwi diplomats received a warm welcome from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this week in Jerusalem.
Israeli news reported that Netanyahu said Israel has “good relations with New Zealand and we want to deepen them further in all areas: in the economy, security, and in diplomacy”. Netanyahu also commented that his wife had just been visiting their son, who is travelling New Zealand, and mentioned how beautiful the country was. Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, extended an invite for Netanyahu to visit and see the country for himself.
The meeting with Netanyahu occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Israeli Prime Minister made reference to this, saying
” It is important to appreciate the position of the Jewish people. At the time of the Holocaust, we were absolutely defenceless, unable to protect ourselves, and obviously we have now an advanced, powerful country that builds our future, but also defends our security.
The main attack against the Jewish people today is the attacks against the Jewish state and the attempt to delegitimize the very right of the Jewish people for a state of their own. This is called anti-Zionism. So the new form of antisemitism is anti-Zionism, and we ask not only all our friends, but all decent countries everywhere to include anti-Zionism the definition of antisemitism as well. And so I’ve just made that request from you as well.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The diplomatic trip was part of a tour of Africa and the Middle East to visit NZDF personnel. Minister of Defence, Ron Mark said is important to “be on the ground. You need to see the men and women who are doing the work… and talk to treaty partners…”.
Mr Mark said the visit to Israel was “a bit of a pilgrimage because I was here in 1982… it’s been a good return”. Mr Mark served in Sinai with the NZDF then and helped establish the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission. Around 2,000 personnel have served the MFO since its inception and the New Zealand government extended the deployment of up to 28 personnel to the MFO in the Sinai until September 2020.
The mission in the Sinai supervises the implementation of the security provisions in the Peace Treaty agreed by Egypt and Israel in 1979 and MFO operates checkpoints and observation posts along the border between the two countries and conducts patrols throughout the Sinai Peninsula.
Mr Mark, started his visit to Israel in the Old City of Jerusalem, according to Ambassador Wendy Hinton.
A spicy start to New Zealand Defence Minister @RonMarkNZF ‘s visit to Israel today, with a walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. Nice to relax before the weekend’s busy schedule. @MFATgovtNZ @NZDefenceForce @winstonpeters @IsraelMFA @IDF @IsraelinNZ pic.twitter.com/IT0JKQWnu3
— Wendy Hinton (@HintonWendyNZ) January 25, 2019
The delegation, which included National MP and Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tim Macindoe, travelled from Jerusalem to the Mt Bental (approx 240km) where the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, Kristin Lund, gave a briefing on the Golan from the strategic lookout.
There are up to eight NZDF personnel deployed as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation mission in the Golan (there are three NZDF observers currently stationed there). The mission monitors ceasefires along the borders between Israel and Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria; supervises armistice agreements; prevents isolated incidents from inadvertent escalation and assists other UN peacekeeping operations in the region to fulfil their respective mandates.
The Kiwi diplomats also visited Israel’s largest defence company Elbit Systems in Tel Aviv to see the systems and hardware that keep Israelis and other allied countries safe.