A number of New Zealand's leading academics on conflict resolution and Israel-Palestine have slammed the country's "dangerous double standard" on the long-running conflict.
In an open letter to Foreign Minister Murray McCully, the academics say New Zealand needs to take a firm stance on the long-running conflict in the Middle East and show leadership.
It comes in the wake of a United Nations Security Council resolution - co-sponsored by New Zealand - which stated Israel's settlement activity was a "flagrant violation" of international law and had no legal validity.
The letter is signed by Professor Kevin P Clements and Professor Richard Jackson who head the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Associate Professor Nicholas Rowe and Dr Rose Martin from the University of Auckland, Dr Nigel Parsons from Massey University, and Paul Duffill from the University of Sydney.
The letter praises McCully's leadership in pushing for the resolution, particularly in the face of pressure from Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu to withdraw it from the UNSC's table.
In the wake of the vote, the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand was recalled.
The academics praised McCully for co-sponsoring the resolution, which they said showed "NZ has provided sensible, just and principled leadership in the promotion of peace, security, and human rights in Israel-Palestine and the wider region".
"We also wanted to acknowledge the NZ government's steadfast defence of its principled and intelligent position in the face of vigorous pressure by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby."
However, the Government's position did not go far enough, they said, and slammed a "dangerous double standard" in supporting the resolution but failing to impose sanctions on Israel or its products made in illegal settlements. This while there were "serious tax-payer funded sanctions" on Palestinian groups involved in violence.
"NZ has yet to place sanctions on violent Israeli entities, Israeli settlements nor the Israeli occupation itself, all of which seriously endanger peace efforts," they write.
"Likewise the Israeli military - despite its well documented indiscriminate killing of civilian women, men and children and human rights abuses - and Israeli arms companies who actively support and profit from these attacks, also escape sanction from the NZ Government."
They added: "This double standard only worsens the deep power inequality that exists between Israel with its US-funded military, and the Palestinians."
It also had a dangerous international fall-out.
"Jihadist and extremist organisations, such as the self-styled 'Islamic State' never tire of pointing to the West's double standards regarding Israel as proof of Western anti-Muslim bias and discrimination to bolster their activities."
They urged McCully and the New Zealand Government to show leadership on issues affecting the region, particularly in light of a change in administration at the White House.
Newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump had taken an "anti-peace position", they said, and employed "an extremist with no foreign policy experience who vigorously supports and even fundraises for Israel's illegal settlements" as his ambassador to Israel.
"In the context of these developments NZ's pledge that it will stand by the policy implications of Resolution 2334 is all the more important."
The signatories have received a response from McCully, who said New Zealand encouraged Israel to negotiate a two-state peace deal, and the resolution was "consistent with our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over many decades".