Cablegate: New Zealand Imposes “Strict Constraints” On
C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000605
DEPT FOR EAP/ANP
NSC FOR GREEN, JONES
EO 12958 DECL: 07/15/2014
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PINR, NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND IMPOSES “STRICT CONSTRAINTS” ON
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL IN WAKE OF SPY SCANDAL
Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, DAVID R. BURNETT FOR REASONS 1. 5(B,D)
1. (U) In an escalating diplomatic row, two Israeli men were sentenced July 14 by the High Court of New Zealand to six months in jail on charges of trying to obtain a false New Zealand passport. The GoNZ has not pursued allegations that the men are agents of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. While Prime Minister Helen Clark would not confirm which service employed the men, she noted “if one were to lay espionage charges, one would have to be prepared to offer the kind of evidence in court which our intelligence agencies don’t like coming forward to display. We have very strong grounds for believing these are Israeli intelligence agents.” Israeli citizens Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara were sentenced to six months in jail, and ordered to each make a NZ$50,000 (US35,000) donation to the Cerebral Palsy Society. (Note: In attempting to procure a passport, they had procured the birth certificate of a cerebral palsy sufferer.) The light sentence reflected the fact that the two men were not the principal actors in the plot, which was led by Israeli Zev William Barkan, who has fled New Zealand and is still wanted. Cara and Kelman pled guilty earlier this month to three charges, including attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organized crime group to obtain a false passport, and faced a maximum sentence of five years. The latter charge is a relatively new provision in the New Zealand Crimes Act, designed to counter transnational crime.
Fallout - “Strict Constraints”
2. (SBU) Prime Minister Helen Clark suspended high-level contact with Israel and announced a range of diplomatic sanctions, including placing Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials under “strict constraints” in their contact with Israelis. Clark justified her actions by stating “the Israeli agents attempted to demean the integrity of the New Zealand passport system. The Israeli Government was asked for an explanation and an apology three months ago. Neither has been received.” Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom responded via radio, saying “we are sorry about this matter. It will be dealt with and all will be done to restore Israel’s long history of good relations with New Zealand.” Clark refused to accept this informal apology. She has announced New Zealand will continue plans to require Israeli officials to apply for visas, to postpone all Israeli consultations this year, and to delay the agrement for a new Israeli Ambassador, resident in Australia. Israel’s president, Moshe Katsov, was expected to visit New Zealand in August, but the GoNZ will likely refuse his request.
3. (SBU) In a separate, but possibly related incident, a Jewish cemetery in Wellington was vandalized July 15, and headstones were desecrated. Clark immediately condemned the attack.
4. (C) Comment: The GoNZ’s public reaction is its strongest diplomatic retaliation in 20 years ) since French spies bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor in 1985. Clark’s limitations on diplomatic contact go further than the GoNZ reaction in 1985, however, and it was reported that she toughened the language of her response from that put forward by MFAT. The GONZ has little to lose by such stringent action, with limited contact and trade with Israel, and possibly something to gain in the Arab world, as the GoNZ is establishing an Embassy in Egypt and actively pursuing trade with Arab states. With Israeli Government officials eager to repair the relationship, and no time limit on the GoNZ’s restrictions, it is possible the issue may be resolved in six months, when the Cara and Kelman have served their time, and leave the country. Swindells