It’s been a while since our last newsletter and a lot has happened. Hopefully, you’ve kept up-to-date with the news via our WebsiteFacebook, and https://twitter.com/IsraelInstNZ“>Twitter channels. One of the things you might have noticed is that we now have merchandise on offer. This is another way you can support the Israel Institute of New Zealand.

There were two major news stories over the past few months that I want to touch on here: the “Peace to Prosperity” vision and New Zealand’s absence at the World Holocaust Forum last week to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz.

We have already shared some news and opinions about the “Peace to Prosperity” vision set out by the US. And there is no doubt a lot more to come out. Though, I think it’s worth keeping in mind a few important points:

– The plan is a suggestion and calls for direct negotiation between Israel and the Arab Palestinians to finalise the deal.

– The plan proposes two states for two peoples. This is a formula that is endorsed by almost all nations.

– There is a detailed map accompanying the plan which means the discussions and negotiations start with a concrete suggestion.

– The vision includes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and compensation for Palestinian refugees. There is no mention of Jewish refugees.

– Israel will freeze any new settlement construction that would encroach on the Palestinian part of the map for four years, giving time to negotiate.

– The PA dismissed the proposal before it was even released. What is encouraging, however, is how some Arab nations endorsed (or didn’t completely oppose) the plan and that the PA might, for the first time, put forward a counter offer.

New Zealand hasn’t yet commented on the proposal but traditional allies like Australia, UK, and France have welcomed the initiative.

It might seem like New Zealand would also welcome a proposal for a two-state solution and a concrete starting point for negotiations. Though, New Zealand has been out of step with traditional allies with respect to our relationship with Israel. For example, our continued voting against Israel at the UN and our missed trade opportunities. The other news also shows how New Zealand is somewhat out of step with traditional allies – we failed to send a representative to an event in Israel attended by more than 40 world leaders. Dame Patsy Reedy sent a good note to the meeting but MFAT officials – possibly the same people who advise on our UN votes and who refuse to condemn incitement to violence or our funding of it – admitted they only advised the Foreign Minister of the lack of representation one week before the event. Although, I’m not sure if it’s worse to snub the event or to go from making a speech about the importance of remembering the Holocaust to shaking the hand of a known Holocaust denier.

This year is set to be a busy time for Israel news. We are looking forward to some exciting projects this year and we thank you for your support!