Relations between Israel and New Zealand have been further strained with the Israeli embassy issuing a statement today criticising the New Zealand Government for its reaction to Israeli forces killing more than 50 protesters in Gaza this week.
The protesters opposed the United States moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinians claims East Jerusalem as its capital for a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters this week called the deaths "highly regrettable," and Israeli ambassador Itzhak Gerberg was called into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to have the concerns of the Government conveyed to him.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also expressed concern in public comments on Tuesday, saying moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was always going to inflame the situation given that Jerusalem was critical to hopes for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
New Zealand has long supported a two-state solution. Diplomatic relations soured when New Zealand co-sponsored a Security Council resolution in 2016 condemning Israel for jeopardising a two-state solution with continued settlement of the West Bank – a resolution which Ardern's Labour Party supported but Peters' New Zealand First Party did not.
The Israeli ambassador was recalled over the resolution for about six months.
The statement released by the Israeli embassy today said Israel had been acting in self-defence in compliance with international law against an internationally recognised terror organisation, Hamas.
"The Government of New Zealand which has recognised Hamas as a terror organisation, regrettably has not condemned Hamas for its actions nor its investment in terrorism.
"Make no mistake, Hamas continues to deprive the Gaza population of their basic rights and is cynically coercing the people for violent provocations against Israel."
The embassy said that Israel was being unjustly accused of using disproportionate force against Hamas.
"The use of force must be judged not by the number of casualties, the statement said, but how many violent rioters there were and how many were affiliated with Hamas. It said there had been 40,000 and that half of them were affiliated to Hamas.
"It is astonishing to see how much disinformation is being used against Israel for its self-defense on the Gaza border."