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The NZ Friends of Israel Association (NZFOI) applauds the restoration of diplomatic ties between New Zealand and Israel.

Diplomatic ties were broken after New Zealand co-sponsored a UN resolution opposing Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Israel responded by withdrawing its Ambassador to New Zealand.

While Andrew Little might say that many were proud of New Zealand’s move to co-sponsor UN Security Council Resolution 2334, many other New Zealanders were ashamed and disappointed.

There is no doubt that the resolution harmed the relationship between the two countries.

However, it has made the issue front and centre in our relationship. We hear that the dispute has resulted in robust discussions between our respective officials.

Most probably, those discussions will have meant that both countries will have learnt more about each other and what each other thinks about the issue.

Both nations have many common values. Both nations value democracy, freedom of information and speech, an independent media, the rule of law and equality under that law, and most of all, both countries desire justice. That must be a good platform from which to work together on finding a solution to the settlements and the disputed territories.

We suspect that there is a disconnect between New Zealand perceptions of what is going on there and the reality.

Perhaps this dispute will mean that we will be prepared to commit more resources to send officials over there to observe first-hand the situation, being careful to maintain a detached neutrality.

If that results in a better and deeper understanding of the situation and each other, then perhaps our governments will have moved the issue forward and to help bring about a sustainable solution.

The relationship between Israel and New Zealand is long and deep. Our country was one of the ones who voted for the establishment of Israel in the UN back in 1948. Today our relationship spans many levels across business ties, diplomatic ties and social ties.

Hundreds of Israelis travel through New Zealand every year. They come to enjoy our outdoors and many enjoy the hospitality of our homestays. Through them, many New Zealanders have developed long-standing friendships with Israelis.

Re-establishing diplomatic ties means that our two governments can fully cooperate on the commemoration of the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns of World War I, where hundreds of our ANZAC soldiers fought and gave their lives to bring freedom to that region. Now, their sacrifice can be properly honoured.

NZFOI Association Inc is a registered charity formed to fight prejudice and intolerance through raising awareness of Jewish history and culture. Sadly, Jewish history is marked by prejudice, intolerance and persecution. New Zealand has a fast-growing multicultural society and so their history has universal lessons for New Zealand communities. Many conflate events in the Middle East with Jews elsewhere in the world. Consequently, reports of violence against Jews, their buildings and facilities and desecration of burial sites often rise during periods of Arab-Israeli conflict.

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