New Zealand PM: We Didn't Apologize to Israel, We Stand by UN Anti-settlement Resolution

In clarification, New Zealand premier says his country was only voicing regret at diplomatic schism their support for the resolution caused, not for supporting the resolution

Bill English, New Zealand's deputy prime minster and finance minister, speaks during a news conference at the Parliament House in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.
Mark Coote/Bloomberg

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said overnight that his country did not apologize to Israel for advancing a resolution against Israeli settlements that passed in the UN Security Council in December 2016. Rather, according to the premier, New Zealand voiced regret at the crisis in its ties with Israel that took place following the UN vote.

"The resolution expressed long-standing and international policy, and we stand by those positions," English said during a visit to Cook Islands. "What we do express regret about was the fact that it disrupted our relationship with Israel.

"Whether we agree with a country or don't disagree with them, we certainly prefer to have a diplomatic connection and it's good that Israel has seen fit to restore their post in New Zealand," English said.

New Zealand's foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee, who was with the prime minister during his Cook Island visit, also said Wellington did not apologize to Israel for advancing the resolution, but only at what took place as a result.

Brownlee said English's letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was intended as a clarification.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced Tuesday that Israel and New Zealand had ended the diplomatic crisis, which began last December when New Zealand cosponsored the Security Council resolution against the settlements.

Israel’s ambassador will return to Wellington in the next few days, after a six-month absence.

A few days ago, Netanyahu held a telephone conversation with the New Zealand prime minister.

Following that conversation, Netanyahu’s office said, English sent Netanyahu a letter saying he “regrets” the damage done to the bilateral relationship by New Zealand’s sponsorship of Resolution 2334. New Zealand's leader also said his country would welcome the return of Israel’s ambassador.

The New Zealand Herald reported that in addition to Israel's reposting of its envoy to Wellington, the first step in thawing ties would be the arrival of a delegation from the country's cyber defense bureau to Israel, headed by a representative from their prime minister's office.