New Zealand defends UN vote as Israel recalls ambassador

Members of the UN Security Council vote on December 23, 2016, on a resolution to stop Israeli settlements

New Zealand said Saturday the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements should have come as no surprise to the Jewish State, after Israel retaliated by recalling its ambassador to Wellington. New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution which described the settlements in the occupied territories as a major stumbling block to Middle East peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state. There was applause in the UN chamber when the first resolution by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in more than 38 years to condemn Israel over its settlement policy was passed 14-0, with the country's key ally the United States abstaining. Israel refused to recognise the resolution with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeting that their ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, who co-sponsored the resolution, were to return to Israel immediately. "These steps are taken against countries that have tabled the draft resolution to the UNSC and have diplomatic relations with Israel," he said. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the decision should have been no surprise to Israel which knew Wellington's position long before the UN vote. "Israel has informed us of their decision to recall their ambassador to New Zealand for consultations," McCully told AFP in a statement. "We have been very open about our view that the (Security Council) should be doing more to support the Middle East peace process and the position we adopted today is totally in line with our long established policy on the Palestinian question. "The vote today should not come as a surprise to anyone and we look forward to continuing to engage constructively with all parties on this issue." The resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem." It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution". Netanyahu's office described the UN move as a "shameful anti-Israel resolution". Malaysia and Venezuela also sponsored the UN resolution but do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. New Zealand is one of 10 non-permanent members of the UNSC, whose two-year term ends this month.