SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – New Zealand’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Israel following a botched Mossad operation was an attempt to increase trade with the Arab world, according to leaked diplomatic cables.
In July 2004, two Mossad agents were caught trying to obtain a New Zealand passport fraudulently, triggering the worst diplomatic meltdown between the two countries. They were jailed and later repatriated to Israel. In 2005 Israel apologized for “the incident with the Mossad” and normal diplomatic relations were restored.
In the cables – released by Wikileaks – former U.S. ambassador to New Zealand Charles Swindells said Wellington had "little to lose" by acting against Israel "and possibly something to gain in the Arab world… actively pursuing trade with Arab states.”
In another cable he said the Kiwis 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.”
Labor Party leader Phil Goff – who was foreign minister in 2004 when the scandal broke – denied the allegations this week, saying the government’s suspension of all high-level diplomatic relations between Wellington and Jerusalem was "a measured, appropriate and effective reaction” which had “nothing to do with trade.”