A lot can happen in one year and there’s no better example of that than 2020. So the refrain of ‘They had nine years’ used in the previous election to advocate a change of government resonated quite well from the perspective of NZ-Israel relations. New Zealand had continued to join the bullies and vote disproportionately against Israel at the United Nations; no Minister spoke out against any of the terror attacks against Israel; our government continued to give money to UNRWA, which incites violence and teaches Arab Palestinian children to hate Jews; and there was, of course, the infamous co-sponsorship of UNSC 2334 by National MP, Murray McCully, acting as Foreign Minister.
Sadly, the 52nd government of New Zealand has had a dismal record when it comes to Israel. Kiwis are still able to materially support Hezbollah and Hamas because they aren’t designated as terror entities; our tax money still goes to incitement via UNRWA; and there has still been no Ministerial statement condemning terror against Israel – whether the arson attacks from Gaza or any of the murders by Arab Palestinians coming from Judea and Samaria. And the deviations from continuing egregious policy have not been good.
The Labour party has condoned one of their MPs actively promoting the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel. The same MP, Dr Duncan Webb, hosted a lunch for the Kiwi who joined the “flotilla” stunt in aid of Hamas, accused “a strong Zionist Jewish lobby” of controlling US politics, and opposed Wellington City Council adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. There was also a Green MP who made comments about Israel that the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand called “grotesque”, “reckless”, “inflamatory” and “fuelling to hate speech”.
The most positive NZ governmental development of the past three years was the signing of an agreement on Cooperation in Technological Innovation, Research and Development. Although work on the agreement was initiated and largely negotiated by the previous government, it is indeed a welcome development and New Zealand stands to gain much from this opportunity.
The National Party has taken much more positive steps. Leaders have expressed regret at participating in UNSC Res. 2334, whereas only the process that led to it was critiqued in the NZ First-Labour coalition agreement. Two National MPs have also expressed a desire to move the NZ ambassador to Israel from Ankara, Turkey, to Israel. And the Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group was reinvigorated with National MP, Alfred Ngaro, at the helm.
There are also two minor parties – The One Party and New Conservatives – that have emerged with clear and positive policy positions with regard to Israel.
If you want to see a strong NZ-Israel relationship and for New Zealand to be more in line with traditional allies showing true support for Israel, the Israel Institute of New Zealand has created a voters guide summarising party positions on key topics and highlighting MPs deserving of praise and scorn. Check it out and consider your vote carefully – it’ll be another three years until the next one and a lot can happen in just one of them.