Backing a UN resolution against Israeli settlements was the right thing to do despite "bluster" from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

"The international community has clearly expressed a view that Israel needs to take seriously the two state solution. Which its rhetoric says that it believes in, but its actions suggest something else," Little said of the ongoing controversy surrounding the resolution.

"I think once you get past the bluster of Benjamin Netanyahu and focus on what the real issues are, and the international law issues are, then it's a no-brainer. And it's in everybody's interests for pressure to go, not just Israel but on the Palestinian Authority, to achieve a lasting settlement."

Vandalism at Murray McCully's electorate office on Auckland's North Shore.
Vandalism at Murray McCully's electorate office on Auckland's North Shore.

New Zealand sponsored a United Nations resolution that passed on December 24 and condemned Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 as 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".

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With the United States abstaining, the vote was passed 14-0.

The resolution infuriated Israel. Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg has been recalled from Wellington to Israel and New Zealand Turkey-based ambassador Jonathan Curr has been denied access to Israel.

The backlash saw a One Nation senator in Australia suggest immigration controls on New Zealanders should be tightened, and Foreign Minister Murray McCully's East Coast Bays electorate office was spray painted with the words "traitor" and "Jew hater".

Speaking today before he flew out to Europe for an official visit, Prime Minister Bill English said the issues surrounding the resolution were highly politicised in Israel.

"But the position of the New Zealand Government should have been well understood ... we have got a realistic understanding of the pressures in the Middle East. That's why in our time on the Security Council we wanted to see some advancement on the Middle East peace process. And the resolution in that sense is pretty balanced.

"New Zealand has been a long time friend of Israel, we have a range of connections, trade, increasingly technology and innovation. And it would be a shame if us expressing a view that might not line up exactly with the Israeli Government was seen as somehow being unfriendly or changing that relationship."

Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying out for Europe. Photo Nick Reed.
Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying out for Europe. Photo Nick Reed.

Little said despite the controversy surrounding the issue of settlements, it was necessary to "stand back and say, 'what is right?'"

"The State of Israel has internationally-recognised borders, it is settling its own people outside of those borders and encroaching on territory that ought to be the subject of a settled peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"In the end there are bigger issues in the Middle East and bigger threats to Israel than just the Palestinian Authority. If that issue is settled then it makes it easier to deal with the other threats to Israel, and the international community wants Israel to be strong and secure and at peace."