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Gordon Campbell on the UN resolution on Palestine

December 30th, 2016

Our foreign policy is trade, as Robert Muldoon observed back in 1980 – give or take the accidents of history that may have created a few allegiances for us along the way. For any small trading nation, trading opportunities need to be at the forefront of its diplomatic planning and – presumably -our role in the recent UN resolution on Palestine was driven by the possible trade opportunities in the Middle East that our public stance on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories might now put within our grasp. Evidently, these trade openings are seen as outweighing (a) the predictable fury of the Israelis, and (b) landing ourselves on the enemies list of the incoming Trump administration.

The UN resolution has been one of the most high profile achievements of our diplomacy on the world stage for many years. True, the resolution is a largely symbolic one – no sanctions will be imposed on Israel for non- compliance, and a freeze on settlements would be only the first step in talks towards the highly theoretical ‘two state’ solution that Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has never wanted, or been able (given the extremist nature of his governing coalition) to pursue, even if he had desired it. To all intents, the ‘two state’ solution has been a dead duck for years – but it gets hauled out and propped up again whenever the UN periodically concerns itself with the equally fabled ‘peace process.’

The symbolism of being seen to support the Palestinians – even if such symbolic gestures change little or nothing on the ground – is an important theme of Middle East politics. Being seen to be onside with the suffering Palestinians ( however ineffectually) is a badge of credibility for the regimes concerned even when – in the case of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – this involves active and ongoing collusion with Israel.

From the time that New Zealand arrived on the Security Council two years ago, the twin concerns of Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully – with an eye on those Middle East markets that have been a gleam in his eye since the Saudi sheep deal was launched – have been (a) a Security Council initiative on the war in Syria and (b) a resolution of some sort on the Israel/Palestine question. Besides the immediate trade advantages to be won in the Gulf, with Iran and with the Saudis, the Middle East is also a far safer zone than the Pacific for New Zealand to try and pursue a foreign policy that’s relatively independent of either China or the US.

For most of 2016, it had looked as if Egypt would be the designated messenger for the Security Council attempts to get the US to abstain, and not veto the Palestine resolution. (The White House had long since run out of patience with Netanyahu, whatever sympathies it might have had initially with his domestic lack of legroom) Wordings were constantly changed to make the UN draft resolution one that the Obama administration would not feel politically impelled to veto.

The Palestinians, with strong international backing, seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in 1967, as part of an independent state. They say continued Israeli settlement undermines that goal, since already some 600,000 Israelis live in these areas.

Israel is livid that the resolution does not appear to recognize its claim to any part of the occupied areas, including Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, though the resolution leaves the door open to agreed land swaps.

To encourage Egypt during 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry shielded Egyptian leader Abdel Fateh al-Sisi from criticism of the harsh repression of dissent within Egypt, but ultimately to no avail. Reportedly, the Israelis convinced Egypt not to follow through, and New Zealand thereafter assumed a more prominent role. According to the Israeli media, the recent Kerry visit to New Zealand finessed the details of the wording. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has reported on the angry phone call from Netanyahu to McCully on the eve of the UN vote.

Interestingly, when McCully and Netanyahu had spoken in Israel only a month earlier, Ha’aretz has aso reported, New Zealand had been promoting a much less confrontational version of the eventual UN resolution :

It was a much softer and more moderate version than the motion that passed last Friday. New Zealand’s resolution did talk about freezing construction in the settlements, but also about freezing Palestinian steps in the UN and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and called for direct negotiations without preconditions.

As the Germans and French have since confirmed, the UN resolution (and the subsequent Kerry speech defending it) do not differ in any significant way from the positions long taken by Europe on the impediment that continued Israeli settlements pose to the peace process. In fact on January 15, France will convene peace talks between 70 countries on the future of the Middle East peace process. The Kerry speech is a determinedly even-handed summary of the Israel-Palestine conflict and is worth reading.

Despite the fierce Israeli response, Kerry’s speech had included this passage about the extent of ongoing US support for Israel :

In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than one-half of our entire global Foreign Military Financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel’s qualitative military edge for years to come. That’s the measure of our support.

But also this passage :

Let’s be clear: Settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security. Many settlements actually increase the security burden on the Israeli Defense Forces. And leaders of the settler movement are motivated by ideological imperatives that entirely ignore legitimate Palestinian aspirations.

Among the most troubling illustrations of this point has been the proliferation of settler outposts that are illegal under Israel’s own laws. They’re often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible. There are over 100 of these outposts. And since 2011, nearly one-third of them have been or are being legalized, despite pledges by past Israeli governments to dismantle many of them.

Now leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of those outposts. For the first time, it would apply Israeli domestic law to the West Bank rather than military law, which is a major step towards the process of annexation.

Trump is simply not interested in those kind of equivocations.

Meanwhile, in Syria

The fierce Israeli/Trump responses to Kerry and the UN resolution have tended to overshadow the other major story that has been unfolding in parallel.

In Syria, a limited ceasefire and framework for further negotiation has been hammered out. According to Reuters, this deal will significantly reduce the powers of Bashir al-Assad and effectively carve up the country into spheres of influence for Turkey, Iran and Russia, with the US being totally frozen out of the process. The Kurds (who have been fighting the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in order to carve out an enclave in northern Syria for themselves) would also be major losers if this arrangement comes to pass. So far, only a couple of rebel groups have joined the ceasefire, and the main “terrorist” groups (ie, IS and the former al-Nusra Front) have been specifically excluded from it.

How different this outcome is from what the West had intended to happen. Five years ago, the Syria conflict was supposed to peel off the Assad regime, replace it with a weak “moderate” administration dependent on the West, and thereby isolate Iran entirely. Instead, Assad has been successfully propped up by Iran, by Hizbollah and by Russia – and Donald Trump appears to be intent on ripping up the US/Iran agreement that constituted Plan B for the Obama administration, once Assad’s survival had become inevitable.

In 2017, it will be interesting to see how President Trump’s can juggle his love affair with Russia, his demonising of Iran and the imminent sellout of the Kurds in the wider cause of currying favour with Turkey. Not to mention how in neighbouring Iraq, demonizing Iran and selling out the Kurds can possibly co-exist with (a) the American desires to continue to prop up a Shia regime in Baghdad that is essentially Iran’s puppet and (b) with the West’s continued reliance on the Kurds as a significant fighting force in the ‘liberation’ of Mosul and Raqqa. Its going to be hard to fit such complexities into a 140-character tweet. _

McCully, adieu

Finally, back to the UN resolution. McCully is due to step down as Foreign Minister at the end of April. Clearly, he has been given a bit more time by PM Bill English to complete this UN process – changing him on the eve of the UN vote would have been very awkward – and in the interim, McCully may even be able to reap some of those trade rewards in the Middle East (that fabled FTA with Saudi Arabia?) that would finally vindicate McCully personally over the Saudi sheep fiasco, and would ring down the curtain on his political career in triumph.

Sometimes….doing what’s good for trade can happily co-incide with Doing What’s Right, even if that latter bit is very much in the eye of the beholder. The Trans Pacific Partnership – for instance – was a diplomatic manoeuvre (and the centre-piece of Obama’s ‘tilt to the Pacific’ intended to isolate and contain China) that was being disguised as a trade pact. For New Zealand, this recent UN resolution was the reverse : a trade gambit disguised as a diplomatic manoeuvre. The added diplomatic advantage being that, this time, we’re not being drawn into a ploy meant to isolate China.

And how it used to be…

Here’s a tune from the old days of the 1950s when US and Israeli foreign policy used to play in complete unison like…well, just like those twins of the grand piano, Ferrante and Teicher.

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    1. 8 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the UN resolution on Palestine”

    2. By Mikey on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

      Mainstream media was again spreading utter lies and propaganda about a NZ/Israel war.
      McDaggy politician looks like he just crawled outta the ass of the bankster’s Israeli puppet Netanyahu (or just got to give him a “glad hand”).

      The UN ” resolutions” ? WTF does that even mean …when the UN in history have only have enforced banking cabal’s unlawful sanctions, it means nothing!.
      Changing the legal name of an illegal act against the Palestinian people does not legitimize the crimes or make the war crimes and human rights violations OK.
      The UN are another daggy group of the banking cabal with its globalization agenda.The UN slogan is ” Saying one thing and doing the opposite”.

      So the unenforced un resolution is totally meaningless. It is a big fat zero (like old Mc gizzy-came- getting-his-photo-shaking hands with war criminal-Mcdaggy).
      Meeting a bankster war criminal, how prestigious for a lowly sheep torturer.

    3. By Anabel on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

      Is it really a triumph to get your photo taken with a war criminal?

      The Oligarchy’s Lee family in China will not the corporation’s biggest sweat shops be isolated.

      Puppet Trump will do whatever he is told, as that is why he was made/hacked president of the corporation of the usa.

    4. By Helen S on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

      Israeli warmonger slogan is “By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt do War”.

      “The World’s Biggest Seismic Testing Ship – The US “Amazon Warrior” (not telling its location as is legal practice), was an extra 95 miles off its Wellington course =5hrs south, was Parked On Top Of New Zealand Fault Line during the November 13, 2016 Earthquake.

      The global banking cabal’s Israel branch is always waging its perpetual wars by way of deception.

    5. By Anabel on Jan 1, 2017 | Reply

      The Assad regime was Washington placed and supported.
      The lie that the invasion/war was for removing one man Assad has been clearly exposed now.
      Syria are, and will be, dependent on the banking cabal not on ” America” as long as they have a central banking system .
      As in every case of the banksters increasing its greedy globalization taking (either covert govt economic policies or the open wars)the losers are always the people.

      Its strange to me that people still believe the flat earth theory equal to: that invading and bombing another nation with the excuse to remove one man” Assad” is a normal act.
      It is in fact a war crime done by all leaders of nations that participated( Russia USA Turkey UK NZ Israel Australia etc).
      @Helen, people don’t yet know that the existing technology to create earthquakes is a fact.
      If you can use that technology to make a nation borrow an extra $45 billion (with interest)?

    6. By Heather on Jan 4, 2017 | Reply

      The UNSC resolution is biased to the point of being anti-Israel and NZ should be ashamed for partaking in it, regardless of trade. Israel may not buy as much meat from NZ as Iran will but we can be confident that our innovation will improve and we will not be financing terror acts. It is a real shame that McCully and our government put dollars ahead of sense and deals ahead of values.

    7. By Mikey on Jan 5, 2017 | Reply

      The UN are hideous and deceptive organization.
      Now they are suggesting the two/apartheid state for Palestinians and Israelis. An apartheid state is all done in order to escalate conflict ,maintain the unlawful occupation of Palestine and to continue the racism ….and that is just what the bankster’s Empire wants.

      Apartheid is a system of racial discrimination and separation.

    8. By Helen S on Jan 11, 2017 | Reply

      @ Heather, the Bank of England’s Crown NZ Govt values are dollars.
      But don’t fret or get hysterical if you enjoy the State of Palestine being called Israel as you will find the UN resolution is absolutely meaningless.
      Everyone already knew that the actions of pushing people out of their homes and off their land is unlawful and the resolution does not address it (or the domestic terrorism and human rights violations).

    9. By Anabel on Jan 11, 2017 | Reply

      Heather , the people of the State of Palestine have suffered terrorism, domestic terrorism. And the taxpayers/people of the place State of Palestine now called Israel have funded terrorism as that is whom Bankster Netanyahu used as debt slaves in order to borrow the money from the banking cabal for the ongoing acts of terrorism.

      If you follow the money you can see that the bank loan the money for terrorism and the wars while the people are put up as a guarantee to pay for it. The private banking cabal is also the winner in dollars for the wars and terrorism(AKA “the war on terror” and “the refugee maker”). Wars that Crown’s NZ govt supported and still support. So also with Israeli terrorism Kiwis also fund terrorism ( not with their consent as they do not know they fund it).

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