More WikiLeaks wonders: US diplomats say New Zealand's reactions over 2004 arrest of two suspected Mossad agents exaggerated in order to sell more lamb to Arab countries.
In response to leaked cable in which former american ambassador,Charles Swindells, accuses Wellington of over-reacting to 2004 arrest of Israeli agents to gain greater access to Arab world, NZ Labor party chief,Phil Goff, says, 'He got the job because he's a big contributor to Republicans
Ynet Published: 12.23.10
New Zealand's condemnation of Israel in 2004, following the arrest of two Israelis suspected of being Mossad agents, might have been intended to increase their exporting to Arab countries. US diplomats estimated that a woolly bounty was on the agenda – lamb.
A confidential cable published by WikiLeaks and published by the British Guardian on Tuesday contains a report by US diplomats to the State Department, on the arrest of two Israelis in New Zealand in March of 2004. The two, Eli Kara, 50, and Uri Zusha Kelman, 30, were arrested after attempting to acquire fake passports, coming under suspicion of being Mossad agents posing as tourists.
The two were later convicted after confessing they had tried to obtain falsified documents. After Israel refused to apologize to New Zealand, the Wellington government cooled its diplomatic relations with the state, and a year went by before they were restored.
According to leaked cable, US diplomats disparaged New Zealand's reaction and accused its government of grandstanding in order to sell more lamb to Arab countries.
New Zealand's then-prime minister, Helen Clark, said after the arrests: "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."
However, according to the leaked cables, US officials in Wellington said 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.
In a confidential document written in July 2004, after New Zealand imposed severe sanctions on Israel, it read: "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."
Another cable sent a couple of days later said: "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."
Phil Goff, the leader of New Zealand's Labor party lashed out on Thursday at former United States Ambassador Charles Swindells for accusing Wellington of over-reacting to the 2004 arrest of two suspected Mossad agents who had allegedly tried to obtain New Zealand passports fraudulently.
In diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, Swindells said New Zealand's government had "little to lose" by acting against Israel "and possibly something to gain in the Arab world... actively pursuing trade with Arab states".
Goff said Swindells was appointed ambassador to New Zealand because he was a "Republican Party funder," adding that the former American envoy did not understand diplomacy, and as a result fed wrong information about New Zealand to his government.
Goff said Swindells let his background as a financier influence how he saw foreign affairs.
"It's the norm for the Americans to appoint ambassadors that aren't professionals... Charles I think really suffered from a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding of how countries work and what they do," he said.
"He had his job because he's obviously a big contributor to the Republican Party, he made the assumption because he thought about the world in a particular way other people might as well."
In another leaked cable, Swindells said New Zealand saw the "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."
In response, Goff said New Zealand's action against Israel was "a measured, appropriate and effective reaction. It had absolutely nothing to do with trade."
A spokesman for the American embassy in Wellington said, "Cables reflect the internal day to day analysis and candid assessments that feed the governments' foreign relations deliberations.
"These cables are often preliminary and incomplete expressions of foreign policy, and they should not be seen as having standing on their own or as representing US policy," he said.
Click to view image: 'The cable published by WikiLeaks'
Click to view image: '0e7bc949614a-3.jpg'
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