Israel permanently downgrades its ties to New Zealand, Senegal
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ExclusiveNetanyahu acts against states that introduced 'shameful' resolution 2334

Israel permanently downgrades its ties to New Zealand, Senegal

Punishing countries that co-sponsored UN's anti-settlements resolution, PM decides not to return ambassadors to Wellington and Dakar

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Jerusalem, June 3, 2015.  (Flash90)
Prime Minister Netanyahu with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Jerusalem, June 3, 2015. (Flash90)

Israel is permanently downgrading its diplomatic ties with New Zealand and Senegal, punishing these countries for co-sponsoring an anti-settlement resolution in the United Nations Security Council last year, The Times of Israel has learned.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided this week not to return Israel’s ambassadors to Wellington and Dakar, who had been recalled after Resolution 2334 passed on December 23, according to a senior source intimately familiar with the issue.

Until the resolution passed, Israel had resident ambassadors in both countries. Netanyahu’s decision not to send the envoys back to Senegal and Wellington is not a formal demoting of ties, but with only a charge d’affaires remaining in these capitals from now on, and no resident ambassador, bilateral relations will effectively have been downgraded.

Israel has already cancelled its foreign aid programs in Senegal.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a query on the matter. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in a statement there is “no decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Senegal and New Zealand.”

New Zealand and Senegal were two of four co-sponsors of the contentious resolution, which declared that Israel’s policy to build settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Jerusalem has no diplomatic ties with the resolution’s other two co-sponsors, Malaysia and Venezuela.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with a delegation of imams from Senegal, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 27, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/FLASH90)
President Reuven Rivlin meets with a delegation of imams from Senegal, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 27, 2014. (Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)

Egypt originally proposed the resolution in late December, but withdrew the draft after Israel asked incoming US president Donald Trump to exert pressure on Cairo. New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia, however, picked up the gauntlet and proposed the resolution the next day. It was passed with 14 yes votes and an American abstention.

Israel reacted furiously, denouncing the text as “shameful” and vowing to punish the states that backed it.

In the immediate aftermath of the resolution’s passing, Netanyahu summoned a dozen ambassadors for dressing-downs, canceled foreign aid to Senegal and Angola, disinvited the Ukrainian prime minister, and declined meetings with the leaders of China and Great Britain. He also instructed his ministers to curtail travel to the countries that voted in favor of the resolution, announced a “reassessment of all of our contacts with the UN,” ordered funding cuts to various UN agencies, and vowed that “there’s more to come.”

But in the following days, Netanyahu’s wrath seemed to calm, as he took steps to restore ties with those countries that voted in favor but did not volunteer to co-sponsor the resolution.

Last week, for instance, he had a friendly telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and promised to resume efforts “to further strengthen the friendship between Israel and Ukraine,” a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office read.

Among other things, Netanyahu and Poroshenko discussed rescheduling the cancelled visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to Israel, who had been disinvited unceremoniously in late December because of the Ukrainian support for the UN resolution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his British counterpart, Theresa May, in London on Monday, February 6, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his British counterpart, Theresa May, in London on Monday, February 6, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Earlier this week, furthermore, Netanyahu met UK Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street. Britain also voted in favor of Resolution 2334, though May subsequently went out of her way to say the settlements were not the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Britain defied international efforts to further pressure Israel.

In London, Netanyahu said the UK’s change in attitude was the result of a letter he sent to the leaders of all 14 countries that backed the Security Council resolution.

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