In an interview with Corin Dann on TVNZ earlier this month, NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, supported former Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s move to co-sponsor UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The Resolution condemned Israel’s persistent violations of international law, in particular, its illegal settlements on militarily-Occupied Palestinian land. The Prime Minister responded in the interview: “We should absolutely use the voice that we had in a critical position within the UN at that time — a particularly critical position at that time — to, yes, take a stand.” She reminded Dann that “The United Nations Security Council passed the resolution in December last year.” That is the real point, UNSCR Resolution 2334 reflects, and is consistent with, decades of UN Resolutions deploring Israel’s violations of the human rights provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. New Zealand has a tradition of supporting and abiding by international law. However, our Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, has called into question New Zealand’s sponsorship of the Resolution and his views have been echoed, online, in statements by the New Zealand First Party.
The Israel Lobby
The Israel Institute of New Zealand, in an article entitled Post Election outlook for New Zealand’s relationship with Israel, noted with pleasure that Winston Peters was now in the position of ‘king maker’. The article considered it was likely that a number of long-term National supporters had voted for Peters in the last election because of his support for Israel. The Institute hoped for and believed that, whichever party was in a position to form a government, “the almost inevitable alliance with New Zealand First presents an opportunity for New Zealand to recalibrate its relations with Israel. Effectively, the government could draw a line under its disastrous sponsorship of UN Resolution 2334, and look to strengthen its ties with Israel.”
Winston Peters has declared that the Resolution is not consistent with New Zealand’s policy settings, going so far as to add that this is “why country’s [sic] like Australia and others are asking the New Zealand Government for an explanation.” Peters also said: “The reality is that Mr McCully’s actions and the government’s condonation of them have seriously prejudiced this country’s international relations.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister needs to explain his reasoning behind this last assertion, because Resolution 2334 was passed, with no vote against it. He must now state clearly whether or not he supports the Prime Minister’s position regarding the Resolution. He should also explain whether he agrees or disagrees with the Resolution’s statement that “all measures aimed at changing the demographic composition and status of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, including construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians are in violation of international humanitarian law, Israel’s obligation as the occupying Power according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and previous resolutions.”
New Zealand’s Permanent Representative at the Security Council, Gerard van Bohemen, has commented: “every [Israeli] settlement creates false hope for the settlers that the land will one day be part of a greater Israel. Every settlement takes land away from Palestinians needing homes or farmland or roads.” In 1967, even the Israeli Government’s chief legal adviser, Theodor Meron, warned his government that, according to international law, “a nation may not settle its citizens on land that it has gained by conquest to usurp the rights of the original residents.”
Fifty years ago, on 22 November 1967, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of Resolution 242, demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories it had seized. Israel, nevertheless, refused to withdraw and it continues, to this day, to demonstrate contempt for the Palestinian people, the world community and international law. It has illegally annexed East Jerusalem, claiming that it is part of its ‘eternal, undivided’ capital. This annexation violates the essential principle of international law – that a foreign power cannot have sovereignty over conquered, belligerently-Occupied territory. For that reason, no country in the world, including Israel’s closest ally, the United States, recognises Israel’s claim over East Jerusalem.
New Zealand’s position must be unequivocal
It is an embarrassment that the New Zealand Government should have a Prime Minister and a Foreign Affairs Minister, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, that disagree on a matter directly concerning the Security Council and the observance of international humanitarian law. Given New Zealand First’s declared position regarding UNSC Resolution 2334, are Labour and the Greens prepared to oppose any attempt by Winston Peters and New Zealand First to reverse the Government’s support for international humanitarian law and Resolution 2334? The opposing views are, after all, irreconcilable. There is yet hope.
A hopeful sign?
In a previous The Daily Blog article, Will Winston Peters be Israel Lobby’s Trojan Horse?, New Zealand First’s Foreign-affairs and trade policy website was highlighted but now, in what may be a hopeful development, all the NZ First URL links quoted above have been closed, for what are described as ‘maintenance’. Even New Zealand First’s policies website has been closed down for now; and so it is to be hoped that our new Minister of Foreign Affairs has begun to get the message and is working towards a change in policy that will be more universally acceptable.