According to recently leaked cables, the US felt New Zealand’s harsh reaction against Israel in the wake of the uncovering of a suspected Israeli spy ring in 2004 was designed to ingratiate the Kiwis with Arab countries.
US diplomats disparaged New Zealand’s reaction to a suspected Israeli spy ring as a “flap” and accused New Zealand’s government of grandstanding in order to sell more lamb to Arab countries, according to leaked cables.
The arrest and conviction in 2004 of two Israeli citizens, who were caught using the identity of a cerebral palsy sufferer to apply for a New Zealand passport, caused a serious rift between New Zealand and Israel, with allegations that the two men and others involved were Mossad agents.
“The New Zealand government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law,” New Zealand’s then-prime minister, Helen Clark, said after the arrests.
But US officials in Wellington told their colleagues in Washington that New Zealand had “little to lose” from the breakdown in diplomatic relations with Israel and was instead merely trying to bolster its exports to Arab states.
A confidential cable written in July 2004, after New Zealand imposed high-level diplomatic sanctions against Israel, comments: “The GoNZ [government of New Zealand] 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.”
A cable two days later was even more pointed, saying: “Its overly strong reaction to Israel over this issue suggests the GNZ sees this flap as an opportunity to bolster its credibility with the Arab community, and by doing so, perhaps, help NZ lamb and other products gain greater access to a larger and more lucrative market.”
The two Israelis were sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $NZ50,000 (£24,000) to the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand because the victim of the attempted identity theft was a tetraplegic, wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer in residential care.
Both men pleaded guilty but denied working for Mossad. The pair were released after serving just two months behind bars and deported in October 2004. Israel made a formal apology for what an Israeli government statement refered to as “the incident with the Mossad,” and normal diplomatic relations were restored by late 2005.
To US diplomats, though, “New Zealand’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 [New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade].”
Ironically, a 2003 US embassy cable from Wellington alleged that New Zealand agreed to deploy troops to Iraq in order to safeguard lucrative contracts for New Zealand diary exporters, a claim described by Clark – currently the head of the UN Development Programme – as “rubbish”.
If you recall, New Zealand’s strategy certainly helped them gain credibility with at least one Arab “government.”
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
8:35PM: Following PM Netanyahu’s official request that the US release Jonathan Pollard, former US attorney-general Michael Mukasey has sent a letter to US President Barack Obama calling for Pollard’s sentence to be commuted to time served.
“[Pollard] has not been alleged by anyone to have had any motive to harm the United States. In these circumstances, a life sentence can only be considered utterly disproportionate to the crime,” the letter read.
“I had occasion myself to consider life sentences, and indeed to impose them. In more than 18 years on the bench, I imposed such sentences on four defendants,” Mukasey said.
8:30PM: Egypt has condemned our air strikes against palestinian terrorists, but not a word against the rockets fired by the latter.
6:20PM: Honest Reporting has come out with its Dishonest Reporter Award for 2010.
5:40PM: According to this site, Rachel Corrie’s mother Cindy has organized a mass mailing and phone-in favoring the anti-Israel bus ads in Seattle (see 8:34AM update).
3:35PM: PA chief negotiator (and propaganda minister) Saeb “Massacre” Erekat is worried Israel will launch a new large scale attack on Gaza, in response to rocket fire on Israel.
“Military solutions such as these won’t attain a thing and would only complicate the situation,” Erekat warned
Perhaps Erekat should express concern that the Hamas attacks on Israel only ” complicate the situation.”
12:42PM: Ynet reports that superheroes have visited Israel.
Of course, it won’t be the first time.
12:35PM: Israeli scientists are now helping..kangaroos.
Obviously so we can import them and then release them all on hapless palestinians.
12:30PM: Israel is apparently taking PR tips from rapper Shyne (whom I blogged about here)
12:25PM: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has stated Lebanon will ask the UN to halt the probe of an international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri “for the interests of the country.”
Hariri was quoted as saying that the Lebanese government will turn to the UN to “work to stop the activities of the tribunal and to cancel the work protocol between the government and the tribunal.”
Moreover, the newspaper quoted Hariri as saying that he will stand by Hezbollah if the group is found guilty by the tribunal, and that Lebanon will not support any of the tribunal’s further activities.
“I have already sacrificed a lot, and I cannot sacrifice more,” Hariri said.
In other words, Hariri thinks the interests of his country are best served by supporting the forces of darkness who murdered his very own father, which also happen to be doing everything in their power to wipe Israel off the map.
10:40AM: Israel has filed a complaint with the UN Security Council, following a series of Qassam rocket attacks on Israel on Tuesday.
Question is: with whom can we file a complaint about the UN Security Council?
8:34AM: An anti-Israel group called The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign has launched an advertising campaign involving ads alleging “Israeli war crimes” appearing on the sides of some Metro Transit buses in Seattle.
Meanwhile, one group has decided to react to this – by going on the offensive.
8:15AM: Some media bias to start the morning.