- Date published:
8:31 am, May 16th, 2017 - 18 comments
Categories: bill english, Gerry Brownlee, International, national, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: israel, palestine
National’s changing position on Israel has received little MSM analysis. But it has been shifting dramatically and suggests that all is not well within the ranks of the National Party.
Richard Harman had this recent post about events at the party’s infamous Auckland Regional Conference suggesting at least some of the members were not happy with National’s previous principled stance on Palestine. From the post (paywalled):
There was talk of concern among some members of the New Zealand vote at the Security Council last year to oppose Israeli settlements on the occupied territories.
Concerns are reported to have flared up again after the Prime Minister slapped down the new Foreign Minister, Gerry Brownlee, last Monday over Brownlee’s claim that the resolution had been “premature”.
The concern is centred among Jewish members of the party in the Tamaki electorate but apparently extends to some evangelical Christians within the party also.
Cabinet Ministers and MPs are aware of the potential for the issue to blow up.
To recap New Zealand at the UN Security Council under Murray McCully’s guidance co sponsored a resolution condemning Israel’s continued land grab of Palestinian land. After the United States abstained the resolution passed. This resulted in something quite unique, a post on the Standard praising McCully for principled action. As I said at the time these were strange times.
The resolution did not go down well with elements of National’s right including Cameron Slater who thinks that illegally grabbing land is fine as long as it is the Israelis doing it and David Farrar who essentially thought that the world was ganging up and being mean to Israel. And it appears the fundamentalist christians in the party, who as a sector within the party are becoming stronger and stronger, did not approve apparently because some random words in an old text of the Bible told them so.
Israel did not approve, and thought that New Zealand’s support for a finding that it was acting illegally, which it was, somehow constituted a declaration of war. This was Donald Trump quality analysis and rhetoric.
In America the original move, approved in the dying days of Barack Obama’s administration, met with disapproval from the new administration. Donald Trump thought that being made to comply with international law was extremely unfair to all Israelis and put Israel in a very poor negotiating position.
And the Australian Government continued with its disgusting racially motivated attack on minorities by also claiming the UN was being unfair to Israel.
From the Australian:
In an exclusive commentary article published in The Australian today, Mr Turnbull denounces the UN for what he claims is bias, citing 20 resolutions between 2014 and 2015 that are critical of Israel when only a single resolution had been issued on the Syrian war.
While Mr Turnbull has been critical in the past of anti-Israeli resolutions, rarely has he been so forceful in his language. “My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” Mr Turnbull writes.
“At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state-solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders.
The comment provides a strange rationale. A situation where there are repeated critical UN resolutions caused by repeated Israeli breaches of Palestinian sovereignty through annexation of Palestinian land is apparently unfair to Israel because there are so many resolutions. Using this rationale serial murderers are being unfairly treated.
But then new Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee blundered in and suggested that the New Zealand sponsored resolution was premature.
From Toby Manhire at Spinoff:
Israel responded furiously to the resolution, removing its ambassador from New Zealand and withdrawing diplomatic access to New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel, who is based in Turkey. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu went so far as to suggest New Zealand’s co-sponsorship of the resolution (New Zealand stepped up after Egypt capitulated to pressure from president-elect Trump and dropped its sponsorship) amounted to a “declaration of war”.
In those circumstances it is understandable that Brownlee, in one of his first acts of foreign minister after taking the wheel from Murray McCully, sought to extend an olive branch, writing a friendly note to Netanyahu. Less understandable were his remarks, on RNZ, that the resolution itself was “just premature”. He continued, apparently making it up as went along, to suggest that UNSC resolutions were misguided if they were “demanding an outcome”, and “the value of any resolution is in how much support it gets and the willingness of the parties who are having the resolution imposed upon them to accept what’s in it.”
OK, but was the resolution right? “I’m not going to make a statement about whether we were right or wrong.”
Bill English was then forced to give Brownlee a public slap down. Again from Manhire:
English was hardly going to make a song and dance about a mistake made by the man he’d just put in charge of New Zealand’s foreign affairs, but this was nevertheless a serious rebuke. Brownlee, who has conceded he has some learning to do, can count his blessings that it received only modest media attention. In many countries in the world, a slap-down of the foreign minister over comments on Israel that contradicted the official position would generate massively more prominent headlines. Israel-Palestine, after all, is hardly a niche issue – it’s probably the most consistently pored-over dispute in international relations across the last 50 years. Here, more than anywhere, “each word matters” – the semantics of the dispute are almost an industry in themselves.
It is pretty clear that the United States and Australia have been pressuring New Zealand and Brownlee buckled. Good on English for holding the line, at least for now.
But this issue is causing some consternation within National’s ranks. It seems that elements within the party are comfortable with the trampling of International rights as long as the bible tells them it is ok.