NZ is now on the UN Security Council, and one of the issues before it is a draft resolution regarding Israel and Palestine.
I recently met with Dr Einat Wilf, who is a former Labor MP in the Knesset, a former intelligence officer, McKinsey consultant, and foreign policy advisor to Shimon Peres. She is a regularly published commentator and academic.
Her bio describes her as an atheist and a Zionist so we had a fun discussion over whether Judaism is a religion, a race or a culture. Her view was definitely not a race, and both a culture and a religion. There are quite a large number of “secular” Jews and she said that one definition of being a Jew is a belief in “up to one God” 🙂
We covered the normal range of topics such as the impact of the Islamic State, Iran, whether despositic dictators were better for the region than the status quo etc. But also quite a bit on Israel and Palestine.
Wilf is very critical of the draft Security Council resolution, which NZ appears to be supporting. She makes the point:
A Security Council resolution that is balanced, even-handed and has the potential to make a real contribution to peace. In its present form, the proposal is very specific on demands from the Israeli side, while leaving the obligations of the Palestinians and the Arab states up to “fair and agreed solution.”
This leaves all the issues crucial to Israel up for negotiation, while whatever concessions Israel could have offered to advance them, have already been predetermined. It further leads to a situation where at the end of the 24-month implementation period, if such a resolution is passed, Israel could be found in material breach of a United Nations Security Council resolution, while no Arab or Palestinian action or refusal to take action can be. There is no specific metric for Palestinian non-compliance, since the draft speaks of their obligations in the most general of terms.
So the resolution appears balanced on the surface as it appears to have obligations on both sides, but the obligations on the Palestinian side are so general, that it is basically impossible for them to ever be found in breach.
On the question of territory, the draft resolution leaves very little ambiguity. It calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines with agreed, mutual swaps and on Jerusalem, it insists on a “shared capital” for both states.
Such specific and unequivocal demands of Israel could have been paired with equally forceful statements renouncing the Palestinian demand for the “return” of the descendants of refugees from the 1948 war — which would effectively turn democratic Israel into an Arab country with a Jewish minority. But here, the resolution only asks for an “agreed, just, fair, and realistic” solution.
The demands for a right to return would effectively see the wiping out of Israel as we know it. If you want a peace settlement, then that needs to go off the table.
The resolution calls on all parties to refrain from actions “that could undermine the viability of the two state solution on the basis of the parameters defined in this resolution,” but then lists as its only example of such action “settlement activities.” Settlement activity is the only specific action of any party that is criminalised in this text, whereas the text makes no mention of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, nor of suicide bombings, or racist or genocidal incitement. It never deplores the Arab boycott as illegitimate or unacceptable, and it doesn’t even specifically call for its end as part of a comprehensive peace.
Not much incentives for Israel!
Where it is specific
about Israeli concessions on territory, it is very vague about the “security arrangements” that will come after an Israeli withdrawal. The details are to be worked out in future negotiations, but one detail is already built in: “a full phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces.” Israel’s concerns that the West Bank, which overlook every major Israeli city and town, could become a base for Gaza-style rocket attacks, are not even a consideration.
This means that in a period where nearly every Arab regime has been threatened with an Islamic insurgency, or fallen to one, or just been ripped apart by civil war, Israel is expected to commit ahead of time to a security arrangement with zero Israeli military presence — and where any future military presence will automatically place it in breach of a UNSC resolution.
So why is NZ supporting this resolution?
I believe New Zealand can make a real contribution to peace and to the strength of the United Nations system by insisting that if such a resolution moves forward it will not “pick and choose” between the sides and the issues, but treat all of them equally and in equal measure and detail.
We campaigned on being independent and fair. I hope we live up to that.