Justice for Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices on Sunday reported with considerable glee an announcement by New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party that if it is re-elected on October 14, it would recognize the State of Palestine by inviting the Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to present his credentials as an Ambassador to New Zealand.
Labour gained 50% of the vote in the 2020 election, increasing its presence in the House of Representatives to 65 seats, and marking the first time that a party has won enough seats to govern alone since 1996. It was a landslide victory, with Labour winning “virtually every single electorate,” gaining the support of centrist swing voters. On January 19, 2023, PM Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation as party leader and prime minister, and Chris Hipkins replaced her on January 22.
As of the October 17, 2020 elections, Labor has 65 seats in parliament, or 50.01% of the votes, the National Party has 33 seats (25.58%), ACT with 10 seats (7.58%), the Greens 10 seats (7.86%), and the Maori Party has 2 seats (1.17%).
Only two weeks later, on February 6, PM Hipkins met with the Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, Izzat Salah Abdulhadi.
Last Wednesday, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi met with New Zealand Representative to Palestine Barney Riley as well as Abdulhadi at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah. According to WAFA, they discussed, naturally, “the rapid escalation of Israel’s flagrant violations of international law and conventions.”
New Zealand would be joining 139 UN member states, out of 193, who already recognize Palestine as a state, even though it does not exist. In reality, in parts of Judea and Samaria there is an autonomy under the control of the Palestinian Authority, which was established following the Oslo Accords of 1994, while in the Gaza Strip Hamas has been in control since June 2007, after it forcibly removed the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority claims sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip but in practice, it lacks many political powers. Over the past 30 years, the PA depended on Israel for significant parts of its budget, including tax and customs collections. There is cooperation between the PA security forces and the Israeli security apparatus, but it is fragile and inconsistent.
In September 2014, Israel and New Zealand clashed after New Zealand had assigned an ambassador to Israel and to the Palestinian Authority. Israel did not allow Ambassador Jonathan Curr to present his credentials, saying that would violate Israel’s “well-known policy” of not receiving diplomats who are also received by the PA. New Zealand ended the conflict by appointing separate diplomats to Israel and the PA.
New Zealand has not yet recognized Palestine as a sovereign state, but it has condemned the Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria and has zealously promoted the two two-state solution. During the May 2021 riots inside Israel, New Zealand maintained an even-keel policy, suggesting that both sides were to blame. Polls have shown that close to 25% of New Zealanders believe that Israel is an apartheid state.
On May 19, the Green Party submitted a motion calling for Parliament to recognize the right of Palestinians to statehood. The motion was defeated by the center-right National and ACT parties. The governing Labour Party did not support the motion. Green MP Ricardo Menéndez tweeted the Hamas slogan: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! pic.twitter.com/xKDbZ5GLeu
— Ricardo Menéndez for Mt Albert (@RMarchNZ) May 15, 2021
Justice for Palestine spokesperson, Neil Ballantyne, said “It’s great to see the Labour Party joining the Green Party in making a commitment to recognize Palestine if elected. In doing so they are continuing Aotearoa New Zealand’s tradition of taking independent and principled stances on foreign policy issues from nuclear free to standing up against apartheid.”
Ballantyne continued “We have faith that just as ordinary New Zealanders were not prepared to stand by in silence while the South African government maintained an apartheid regime, we will not be silent while Palestinians suffer similar indignities and will reward those politicians who are taking this courageous stance.”