Brownlee wants to get Israel relationship on track

  • 04/05/2017
Gerry Brownlee (Newshub)
Gerry Brownlee (Newshub)

Newly sworn-in Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says he's written to Israel's Prime Minister in a bid to smooth out diplomatic relations.

The letter comes after Israel recalled its ambassador from Wellington last year in protest of a UN resolution which said its continuing establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory constituted a violation under international law.

New Zealand was one of five countries to sponsor the proposal, which was backed by 14 members of the security council, while the US abstained.

Days into the job, Mr Brownlee said he had written to Benjamin Netanyahu to mark Israel's Independence Day.

"Our goal is to get the relationship between New Zealand and Israel back on track," he said in a statement.

"I'm hopeful this will provide a positive platform to re-establish communication between officials from our respective foreign affairs ministries."

He told Radio New Zealand he thought the resolution had been "premature".

"The value of any resolution is in how much support it gets and the willingness of the parties who are having the resolution imposed upon them to accept what's in it," he said.

"I'm not going to make a statement about whether we were right or wrong ... What we have got is a relationship with Israel which is an important country in that part of the world for stability in that part of the world."

NZ First leader Winston Peters accused then foreign minister Murray McCully of acting "unilaterally" in backing the resolution without express cabinet approval.

But Mr McCully said its wording was consistent with New Zealand's long-standing policy of supporting a two-state solution as the only pathway to secure and lasting peace.

"Ministers were regularly updated on New Zealand's policy settings regarding situations on the Security Council's agenda, including on the Middle East peace process," he said.