4 Aug 2014

PM rejects call to expel Israel envoy

9:38 pm on 4 August 2014

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will not be expelling Israel's ambassador to New Zealand after calls from the Opposition in response to the Gaza conflict.

Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand, Yosef Livne.

Ambassador Yosef Livne. Photo: SUPPLIED

Health officials in Gaza say 1800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than 9000 injured since the conflict began nearly a month ago. There have been attacks on United Nations-run schools and shelters, killing many children.

Some 66 Israelis have died in battles with Hamas, all but two of them soldiers.

The Green Party wants the immediate expulsion of Ambassador Yosef Livne, saying this would be a clear diplomatic signal.

But Mr Key told reporters on Monday that he does not support such a move, as the Government has already formally called in Mr Livne and strongly voiced its distaste and deep concern over it what sees taking place in Gaza.

"At the end of the day, having an ambassador in New Zealand allows the New Zealand Government to formally register its concerns where it see those concerns. We've done that - and on at least one occasion in the last couple of weeks we've formally called in the Israeli ambassador.

"If we send him home to Tel Aviv, then we don't have anyone we can register those concerns with."

On 31 July, the New Zealand Parliament condemned the shelling of a UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp where 3000 people had taken refuge. At least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded on 30 July.