Two New Zealand National Party Members Parliament have challenged the government to move the Israeli embassy from Turkey to Israel.

Todd McClay, a former ambassador for the Cook Islands and Niue to the European Union and current National Party spokesperson for Trade, spoke first. Simon O’Connor, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, spoke immediately following. Both speeches were part of the Estimates Debate – External Sector.

Both National MPs mentioned recent discussions at the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee involving Israel. The committee discussed the error by Immigration New Zealand that wiped Israel off the map, with Mr McClay saying

“There could be many reasons why this happened; none of them are good reasons, none of them are acceptable.”Todd McClay

Mr McClay also acknowledged the “forthright” apology from the Minister over the incident. Both MPs also mentioned discussion in the committee around where New Zealand’s embassy to Israel is based. Mr McClay said

“It is time that we made sure that all across Government in New Zealand they are clear on New Zealand’s position on Israel and Palestine and the Middle East. Actually, it is time for the Government to make a decision that the embassy that looks after the State of Israel, the independent State of Israel, is no longer in Turkey, it is Israel. The Opposition would support that. That would be a very good use of money.”Todd McClay

This sentiment was also endorsed by Mr O’Connor, who said

“I’ve called for for a while as well that New Zealand should be relooking at how it does its diplomatic relations with Israel, notably that we should not be having those relationships out of Ankara. That’s not needed. In fact, it arguably is the wrong symbolism—would certainly encourage New Zealand, as we did in the discussion with the Minister, to relook at how it does its diplomacy in that regard. Personally, I’d like to see it in Israel; just as Israel’s shown us respect by having its ambassador here. We should be looking to have [ours] in Israel. “Simon O’Connor

As well as a mark of respect, it would also likely relieve the ambassador posted to the embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Ms Wendy Hinton currently has that role and is accredited to Azerbaijan, Israel, Jordan, Turkey. Turkey and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel but they are not strong. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said “Whoever is on the side of Israel, let everyone know that we are against them,

The Israel Institue of New Zealand has previously suggested that the New Zealand ambassador be based in Jerusalem. This would send two strong signals: that the relationship is valued and important; and that New Zealand understands that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

We applaud the speeches of Mr McClay and Mr O’Connor and hope the discussion continues in good faith.