New Zealand’s Israel / Palestine initiative disappoints

Sharif Nashashibi
Sharif Nashashibi
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Days after New Zealand began its two-year stint as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in January this year, the country’s then-representative Jim McLay criticized the Council for failing to show leadership over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For months, there were reports that New Zealand - which last had a Security Council seat 21 years ago - was planning to present a draft resolution, which it did last week. The wait was not worth it.

Most worryingly, the draft calls for the Palestinians to stop pursuing Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in return for a halt to settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory. Peace is impossible without justice, particularly when the injustice has gone on as long as it has for the Palestinians - almost 70 years.

Drafting resolutions that base objectivity on the illusion of an asymmetrical conflict - rather than one party suffering one of the greatest, most enduring injustices of our time - brings us no closer to ending it

Sharif Nashashibi

New Zealand seems to think otherwise. This is ironic because it voted in favor of Palestine’s upgraded U.N. status in Nov. 2012, which allowed it to join the ICC. Indeed, joining the Court was the biggest prize of the upgraded status, and the reason for vociferous opposition from Israel and its allies.

“What’s objectionable is the attempts to undermine international justice, not Palestine’s decision to join” the ICC, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in April this year, at the time of Palestine’s accession to the Court. The draft resolution undermines international justice and - like the moribund, decades-long ‘peace process’ to which New Zealand wants both sides to return - regards international law as an obstacle to peace rather than its key.

Even worse, what the resolution offers Palestine for turning its back on the ICC is insulting. Even if Israel was willing to implement a blanket freeze on settlement construction - which it has always refused to do, and would be even less likely under its current extremist government - this would not be an Israeli concession but a requirement under international law, which deems the settlements illegal because they are built on occupied territory.

The draft does not mention Israel actually withdrawing from existing settlements. These armed colonies deny a Palestinian state viability and territorial contiguity, are situated on its main water aquifers and most fertile land, and control around half of the occupied Palestinian territories.

The draft’s call on both sides to avoid provocative acts, “end the violence, avoid incitement and protect civilians” represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the conflict, as if it is between two sides of equal strength, grievance and responsibility.

Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine, and the denial of its people’s basic rights, are a daily, relentless, flagrant provocation. To portray resistance to this as provocation is to expect Palestinians to lay down and accept their subjugation.

The draft’s call for both sides not to question the “integrity or commitment of the other party or its leaders” beggars belief, since Israel has used negotiations as a fig leaf to entrench its occupation and colonization. It is particularly galling given that the current Israeli government is replete with members, from the prime minister down, who openly and categorically reject a Palestinian state.

What, then, is the point of the draft calling on both sides “to prepare to return to negotiations”? This will simply buy Israel more time to systematically wipe Palestine off the map, portray itself as eager for peace in the process, and blame the Palestinians when they do not meet its ever-increasing demands.

This is not conjecture - a quarter of a century of negotiations have left Palestinians with fewer rights, less land, and no hope of Israel acting in good faith. Yet Palestinians are expected to continue hitting their heads against the same brick wall. Israel’s rejection of the draft as “destructive” is an indication of how pointless it is to continue the charade of talks with a party that is only interested in negotiating the terms of Palestinian submission.

The last time the Security Council adopted a resolution on the conflict was in 2009. That is a failing of the Council, and particularly of the United States, whose veto power is responsible for the Council’s inaction and Israel's subsequent impunity.

However, drafting resolutions that base objectivity on the illusion of an asymmetrical conflict - rather than one party suffering one of the greatest, most enduring injustices of our time - brings us no closer to ending it. For all its desire to show leadership and break the impasse, New Zealand has simply regurgitated the same redundant formulae.


Sharif Nashashibi, a regular contributor to Al Arabiya News, The Middle East magazine and the Guardian, is an award-winning journalist and frequent interviewee on Arab affairs. He is co-founder of Arab Media Watch, an independent, non-profit watchdog set up in 2000 to strive for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media. With an MA in International Journalism from London's City University, Nashashibi has worked and trained at Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, the U.N. Development Programme in Palestine, the Middle East Broadcasting Centre, the Middle East Economic Survey in Cyprus, and the Middle East Times, among others. In 2008, he received the International Media Council's "Breakaway Award," given to promising new journalists, "for both facilitating and producing consistently balanced reporting on the highly emotive and polarized arena that is the Middle East." He can be found on Twitter: @sharifnash

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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